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Still burning: Forest fires continue to rage in Uttarakhand

Wildfires began in Uttarakhand on October 15, 2020 and continue to destroy large tracts of forests

The forests of Uttarakhand have not stopped burning in the last six months. Fires have continued to erupt one after another.

While forest fires are a recurring and common phenomena, their frequency has been on the rise in the state.

The season between winter and monsoon, referred to as the ‘forest fire season’, is now increasing. Climate change and consequently scarce rainfall in the Himalayan regions plays a huge role.

There were 989 fire incidents in the forests of the state from October 1,2020-April 4, 2021, according to forest department figures. Some 1,297.43 hectares of forest got burned down in the fires, according to the estimates.

There were 470 incidents of fire in Uttarakhand’s forests between November 2020 and January 2021. The figure for the same period in the previous year was 39.

Uttarkhand ranked second in the country after Madhya Pradesh in terms of active instances of fire on April 5, 2021 according to the Forest Survey of India. There were 93 active instances of fire in Madhya Pradesh and 71 in Uttarakhand.

Uttarkhand received only 10.9 millimetres of rainfall from January-March 2021 against the usual 54.9 mm, a deficit of nearly 80 per cent. The district of Pauri, which has been most affected by fires, received the least amount of rain, a measly 3.1 mm, against the usual 36.6 mm. The deficit in Pauri has been 92 per cent.

Temperatures too have been rising across Uttarakhand and other Himalayan states. The year 2020 was the second consecutive ‘warm’ year for the state.

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