Uttarakhand forest fire spreads, timber mafia's involvement suspected

The Union Home Ministry has sent a four-member expert team to Uttarakhand to look into the forest fires in the state.

Last Updated: May 02, 2016, 09:39 AM IST
Uttarakhand forest fire spreads, timber mafia's involvement suspected

New Delhi: Latest satellite imageries of Uttarakhand have reported that the forest fire has gone out in over 70 percent of the affected areas, even as the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has deployed over 130 personnel to tackle the massive blaze.

Meanwhile, reports have emerged suggesting the role of timber mafia in an increase in forest fires in the state.

When asked about such reports, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar said (and DNA reported): "We have got some reports from various quarters and we will investigate the matter."

 

According to The Times of India, there is an alleged nexus between the timber mafia and the Forest Development Corporation, which has the authority to sell the trees via auction, which are dead or dried. Selling the trees which have been burnt would give a huge revenue to the corporation and also benefit the timber mafia that would buy them, said the daily. The land cleared in the wake of forest fires can also be sold in land transfer cases, which would help the builder lobby.

The Union Home Ministry on Sunday sent a four-member expert team to Uttarakhand to look into the forest fires in the state and submit its report within a week after taking stock of the situation.

 

Assuring that the situation was under control, the statement said: "About 6,000 people from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), state police, forest staff and volunteers are deployed there...Three Air Force helicopters including an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and two MI-17 helicopters with Bambi bucket have also been deployed to assist the local administration," the ministry statement said.

Incidents of forest fires began 88 days ago and have so far destroyed nearly 3,000 acres of forest cover.

 

The National Disaster Response Force teams have spread out in 13 affected areas of three districts of Pauri Garhwal, Almora and Chamoli with fire fighting equipment to tackle the massive blaze.