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Forest fires continue to destroy green gold in Kashmir

Srinagar, Oct 16: Forest fire has emerged as a major problem in Jammu and Kashmir as the fire is not only swallowing green gold, but is also producing a huge amount of smoke, spreading respiratory problems among the local population.

During the current year fire broke out in the upper reaches of Brein and Nishat, spreading to Dachigam National Park and continued till several weeks.
In January, fire broke out in Zabarwan mountain range, which engulfed its 50-60 hectares of the forest.
In 2017, a similar incident continued for two days and damaged a vast area. Similarly, fire also broke out in a forest in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. The incidents of forests fire have been witnessing a drastic increase across the Valley.In 2016, as many as 71 forest fires have been witnessed in Kashmir, with areas like north and south Kashmir reporting such incidents frequently.
Prior to it, the valley in 2015 had witnessed 49 fire incidents in forests, with north Kashmir reporting 24 of them. “We are losing our forests. It was Sufi Saint, Sheikh-ul-Alam, ‘Ann Posh Tele Yele Wanposh’, which means food is subservient to forests,” an official told early times.
An official report of the forest department reveals the natural causes of forest fires are reported to be less than 5% of the total number of fires caused in a year while 95 percent are manmade that could be prevented by preventive measures by the government and the people alike.
The forests mostly fall in dry temperate class. These forests are predominantly having conifers comprising of Deodar, Kail and Fir. These forests are not normally vulnerable to forest fires as they are predominately having evergreen species and lush green ground cover.
The report has suggested the government to take some measures to prevent the man made forest fires in the state.
“There needs a connectivity by providing wireless sets / cell phones, mobility facilities (some pickup Vans) and proper gear for the staff to save themselves from any injury while extinguishing fires, first aid kits for emergencies and tools for carrying out the fire control operations,” the report reads.
The report, says that for quick detection there should be provision of engaging local fire watchers during the fire season for ground patrolling.
“For quick action sufficient labour force and staff is required to be deployed. Arrangement of tools, food, water and lighting should be there as the process of fire extinguishing sometimes may take days together. The arrangement of transportation of men and material should be available,” it adds.
However, the official of the forest department told that no such measures are being taken by the government.

“The most common cause of forest fire is man-made which can be either because of carelessness or deliberate and intentional. Had government taken some measures such incidents could have been prevented,” he said.

The JK Forest Policy was approved in 2011, its basic objective was conservation of biodiversity and natural habitat through preservation of natural forests with the vast variety of flora and fauna. The recorded forest area is 20230 sq. kms, which constitutes 19.95 % of geographical area of the state.