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in Uttaranchal

Forest fires devastate 3,000 hectares
in Uttaranchal

June 06, 2003 19:36 IST

The 48-hour-long forest fire, doused by light showers on Wednesday night, has left an estimated 3,000 hectares of charred forest area in the Himalayan state of Uttaranchal.

"Thanks to the unusual showers, the damage was reduced considerably, otherwise the flames would have ravaged even the full grown trees, which could now possibly regenerate during the monsoons," Gambhir Singh, special secretary of Uttaranchal's forest department told

He said, "While Chamoli and Rudraprayag were the worst affected districts, the blaze was also visible in parts of Tehri and Almora districts."

Singh attributed the forest fires in the hills to accumulation of biomass comprising largely of dead leaves, that become highly inflammable during the dry summer months. Even a bidi butt or a half-lit matchstick was enough to spark off a major blaze.

"This usually happens once in three years and apart from digging of fire lines to prevent flames from spreading to more areas and manual beating of the flames, there was little that we could to contain it", he said.

Uttaranchal has a forest cover of some 3,400 sq km.  The worst blaze witnessed by the region in recent times was in 1995, when over 620,000 hectares of forest area was charred in a major fire that continued to rage over large parts of the famous Binsar forest and around. The other major blaze was witnessed in 1999 when it engulfed 60,000 hectares in the Himalayan hill state.

Meanwhile, rains also brought the searing temperature substantially down in the Indo-Gangetic plains of Uttar Pradesh.

"The showers dropped the mercury that was soaring between 45 to 50 degrees Celsius in large parts of Uttar Pradesh, to 38-40 degrees Celsius," a senior official of the Meteorological Department said.

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow