Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir has reported more than 1000 wildfire incidents in the last four years.
Wildfires are uncontrolled blazes fueled by weather, wind, and dry underbrush. In recent years, vast tracts of land in the valley have been ravaged by forest fires damaging flora and fauna.
According to the latest figures, around 1,364 fire incidents were recorded in Jammu and Kashmir in the last four years with 209 wildfire incidents reported in 2021 alone.
The fragmentation of most forests, interspersed with habitations of all sizes, results in high human presence in most forested areas which adds to their vulnerability to fires, an official document stated.
It mentioned that the affected forest areas in Kashmir include Kehmil, Bandipur, Lidder, Anantnag while the forest fire vulnerability remains high in Nowshera, Reasi, Kathua, and Udampur in Jammu region.
In Kashmir region, fire mostly occurs in the winter months. But in certain pockets, it occurs in March-April.
“Nearly 46 per cent of the land area in UT lies below 2000-meter elevation. These areas are predominantly occupied by broad-leaved forests, Chin Pir forests, and scrubs which in dry season accounts for most of the fire incidences. Highly vulnerable Chin Pir forests contribute to the fire regime by huge availability of dry needles in summer season which are slow to decompose but quick to catch fire under favourable conditions,” the document said.
A senior official of the Wildlife Department Kashmir said the department in coordination with the forest department is taking short and long-term measures to curb the incidence of forest fires.
“These measures include digitization of forest boundaries, promoting greater adoption of the forest fire alert system, improving ground-based detection by using new remote sensing technology, strengthening engagement with local communities,” he said.
That said, he noted that forest fires are as old as the forests and over the years the number has come down. “The moment we get information on fire, a team member responds and rushes to the spot to douse the flame. We have a well-equipped firefighting squad including field staff, seasonal firewatchers, and community firefighters to tackle the blaze,” he said.