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Published on : Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Indian forests have always held an element of awe for travellers, adventurers and writers. The evergreen coniferous forests in Uttarakhand, Himachal and Jammu & Kashmir lend intrigue as one looks at the thickets from a distance. You can’t help wondering what lies beneath the surface of this bio-diversity. A very rich wildlife is supported by these forests and a wide collection of both animals and insects find home in these awe inspiring woods of India.
Forest fires in these regions are common occurrences. Over 4,500 hectares in Himachal Pradesh (HP) and 3,185 hectares in Uttarakhand have been badly hit by forest fires. Uttarakhand particularly has been severely affected by forest fire. The area has seen 1,470 incidents of fire so far, (1,413.58 ha) has affected the Garhwal region, 463 (1,076.21 ha) in Kumaon, and 204 (695.65 ha) in wildlife zones.
The area is fed by tourism throughout the year. After the floods affected the region in 2013, tourism went down drastically in the state by 0.34 million USD in 2014, but the state managed to revive its potentials and the numbers rose to 0.45 million USD in 2015. The tourism industry is hoping to receive a record number in 2016. The faith of tourists has been restored once again on the state. If forest fire is not managed with efficiency there may be a fear factor working in the minds of visitors which could lead to cancellation in booking and visitation, fear tour operators.
Summer is the peak time for tourism in Uttarakhand and forest fires are becoming uncontrollable in the region. “The forest fires, if not controlled urgently, could affect the tourism flow this year. It is causing adverse publicity (for the state) and we are wary of it,” said Sandeep Sahni, president of the Uttarakhand Hotel Association voiced.
HP which is also a major region of tourism claims that fire have been now brought under control. In Himachal Pradesh, 578 incidents of fire have been reported so far, affecting six districts: Shimla, Solan, Una, Bilaspur, Kangra, Hamirpur and Sirmaur. The Shimla Met department is hoping that rains will arrive in by the end of this week and the fire will be doused.
Already there are reports from some medias who are warning tourists to reconsider their plans with a list of areas affected by forest fires. The areas that have to be avoided or tourists need to watch out are:
Nainital, Almora, Gauchar and Pauri, have been badly affected and are top attractions in the Garhwal.
World heritage Kalka-Shimla rail line at several points near Dharampur town, 65 km from Shimla has been badly brazed by forest fire.
Tourists have been warned and asked to keep a tab on the developments before cancelling their holiday plans.
Wildfires are annual occurrences in Uttrakhand and Himachal, however this year the fire has been more widespread and is becoming difficult to manage. The fire season starts from mid-February and lasts until mid-June, when the rains arrive. More than 95% of fire is manmade according to FSI reports. In the winter season when the chill winds blow, people light fires in the forest with the dry chir leaves and when they leave they forget to douse the flame. Honey collectors too are responsible for forest fires.
9,000 men have been employed along with 3,500 regular staff to beat the fire in Uttarakhand. Two IAF Mi-17s have been flying sorties to dump water picked from the Bhimtal Lake and the Srinagar, Garhwal, reservoir over the affected areas of Kumaon and Garhwal. People have been prohibited from carrying match sticks or anything inflammable in the forest.