Forest fires are not a new phenomenon in the summer, but what's the difference this time?

Why Uttarakhands forests are burning down Is it the timber mafia
news Sunday, May 01, 2016 - 08:46

It has been a week since the Uttarakhand forests of Pauri, Chamoli and Almora districts went up in flames. Over 1900 acres of forest has reportedly been burnt. Even as Uttarakhand Governor KK Paul is touting for number of firemen deployed to be doubled from 3000, the “garlands of fire” as they are being called show no signs of abating.

Forest fires are not a new phenomenon of the summer. However, this time it appears to be a chain of forest fires which has spread across forest covers in various districts.

Meanwhile, there is speculation over what may have caused the wildfire. On one hand, the extreme summer heat is being quoted as the source. In an interview to, photographer Anup Sah, who has lived in Nainital, said that this year’s drought has been worse and he had never seen a forest fire this bad.

Anil Joshi, founder of the Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation said that the forest management was not prepared for the summer either. For instance, the highly flammable chir pine needles were left behind on the forest grounds while the timber was cleared. The presence of these needles provides adequate fuel to the wildfire.

However, there are allegations that the devastating fire was not a natural mishap but, in fact, a deliberate doing of the ‘timber mafia.’ Builders want the trees to burn so that the villagers who own the land have to sell the timber from the charred trees, leaving the land free for construction. Meanwhile, villagers who want to sell the timber are also hand in glove, thus forming a nexus. Wood from these trees, which are otherwise protected by law, sells for crores in the illegal timber market.

It is difficult to control the mafia as well. A local resident of Bhimtal told DailyO:

"Unless the army is deployed immediately, we will have a grim situation on our hands. We need help to fight the fires but none has been sent in a week."



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