Forest fires in some parts of northern India are the worst in 15 years
The mountains in the background of the famous Naini Tal Lake in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand usually add to the beauty.
However, for the past several weeks, the smoke from the forest fire has obscured the beautiful scenery of the mountains and the lake.
Shekhar Pathak, a forest historian in the region, says the smell of smoke can be felt on the side of the lake where they live.
“Pine trees catch fire quickly, not only are they on fire, but oak forests are also burning, which means the situation is very serious.”
People in areas most affected by wildfires told the BBC they do not sleep at night these days.
Kedar Awani, a resident of a village in Pithoragarh district, said, “We wake up at night to see if the forest fire is coming towards us.”
“All the fodder and grass we had collected for our cattle was consumed by the fire and now we are in danger that the fire will engulf our homes as well.”
Kedar Avani said that the fire is so fast that even with a decision of 20 meters, it feels very hot. “We have no means of extinguishing it.”
According to scientists, forest fires in Uttarakhand have led to a huge increase in carbon emissions.
Scientists say wildfires in some parts of northern India and neighboring Nepal are the worst in 15 years. According to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS), wildfires in Uttarakhand have released about 0.2 megatons of carbon into the atmosphere, a record since 2003.
Based on an analysis of satellite imagery, it is estimated that forest fires in Nepal in the same period emitted 18 megatons of carbon, the highest since 2016.
According to Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at CAMS, this reflects the severity and prevalence of forest fires in the region and is a matter of grave concern.
Forest fires in Nepal and Uttarakhand have so far killed 20 people and destroyed an estimated millions of acres of forest. However, official figures have not yet been released.
About 500 fires were recorded in Nepal last month.
Many of Nepal’s forests and national parks are linked to India’s forests and national parks. Which means the situation in one area can affect other areas.
Continuous dry weather
Most parts of Nepal and northern India have not received rain for months, leaving forests dry.
Shekhar Pathak says that it has not rained or snowed for many months due to which fire is burning in the oak forests. The land on which these forests stand has completely dried up.
What worries locals the most is that wildfires usually start in May. Which means it’s about to be the most delusional time of the year, as well.
According to scientists, climate change cannot be directly blamed for forest fires, but it has led to an increase in dry weather in the region.
Officials in Nepal and Uttarakhand say burning forest crop fires on farmland around forests also causes forest fires several times.
Experts say that despite this situation, the issue has not been given much importance by the governments. That is why this issue is not discussed in Parliament.
Isn’t a forest fire a natural disaster?
In India, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has not yet classified forest fires as natural disasters.
The NDMA website lists hurricanes, tsunamis, extreme heat waves, landslides, floods and earthquakes as natural disasters.
According to the Forest Survey of India’s research in 2019, 36% of the country’s forests are at risk of fire.
NDMA member Krishna Watsa says, “We have not included forest fires in the list of natural disasters so far because forest fires in India are mostly caused by people who use fires for agricultural purposes.” Apply Therefore, it is not a natural disaster but a man-made threat.
According to the Forest Survey of India in 2019, 36% of the country’s forests are at risk of fire.
“But we recognize that forest fires are becoming a serious problem and that is why we are working with the forest department and other agencies in all states,” he added.
Helping local communities
Experts say that local communities living around forests can be of great help in preventing wildfires, but this is not happening.
According to Shekhar Pathak, the reason is a severe lack of trust between forest officials and locals.
“Many local communities want their rights, including access to forest resources. These communities want their rights to be understood. That is why there is a kind of tension between him and the officials of the forest department and it is a big obstacle in solving a problem like forest fire.
Locals have also been protesting against forest protection policies. According to local communities, these policies have deprived them of access to forests. Authorities say they are protecting forests in accordance with the law.