With the arrival of summer and rising mercury, forest fires have been triggered in Kangra district. A number of pine forests in the lower hills of Himachal Pradesh have caught fire. Lack of cooperation from local residents, who have been declared as 'bartandar', the user of forest by the government, the forest department is helpless in bringing the fires under control.
The absence of adequate financial support for initiating preventive measures has made the department look towards the rain god to douse the flames. The fires get extinguished completely only when the monsoon breaks over the region. This year it could take longer as monsoons are expected after June 25.
Official sources confirmed that the forest department has not been able to take even the minimum preventive measures like controlled burning of forests and maintenance of fire lines.
As per norms, controlled burning has to be carried out at least over one-third of the total area susceptible to fires. The total area under pine, where controlled burning is required, is 1,50,000 hectares and as such preventive measures are to be carried out over 50,000 hectares.
Official sources said that over 20 per cent of the forest area is prone to fires. Controlled fires are beneficial for their growth even though uncontrolled blazes cause severe damage to soil, water, wildlife and the overall environment.
Controlled burning enables to destroy the inflammable materials which get accumulated on the forest floor. An estimated 2 tonne of pine needles are shed over one hectare of pine forest annually. As mercury rises, the inflammable needles virtually transform the pine forests into tinder boxes.