Rampant forest fires that began in October 2020 in Uttarakhand are continuing to burn, gradually turning the state into a smoke chamber.
The raging fire, which has begun to spread widely, reaching into the nearby villages as well, is yet another manifestation of climate change, said the state forest department.
About 989 fire incidents have been reported in the state's forests from October 2020-April 2021, with 278 cases of forest fire reported in March alone. The worst-affected districts are Nainital, Almora, Tehri and Pauri.
According to the estimates, the fire burned 1,297.43 hectares of forest, claimed the lives of seven animals and four people and destroyed property worth 37 lakhs.
Forest fires happen every year in Uttarakhand from February to May, called the 'fire season' by the state forest department. However, the fire season usually lasts only up to the beginning of monsoon season.
But unlike the previous years, Uttarakhand received only 10.9 millimetres of rainfall from January-March 2021 against the usual 54.9 mm, a deficit of nearly 80 per cent. Along with the rising temperatures, the rainfall deficit has left the leaves dry, contributing significantly to the continuous burning of forest fires. The high carbon content in the atmosphere is also turning out to be a health hazard for the people living in the state.
Uttarakhand government has deployed 12,000 forest department personnel, set up 1300 fire stations to top forest fires and have also sent two Indian Air Force's helicopter, each with a capacity of 5000-litre tanks, to douse the fire on Monday.