Are Frequent Forest Fires in Srinagar-Belt Sponsored?

Shakir Mir

SRINAGAR

Forest fire
Forest fire. (Representational Image)

Over two back-to-back fire incidents in the Brane-Nishat area that took place recently kept residents at the tenterhooks even as the Fire and Emergency Services department was caught napping. Residents said that the fire was too “close for comfort” for the locals living around the Ishbar in Nishat. “It could have easily spilled over to our place,” a resident said.

Sources alleged that a “sponsored” fire blazed parts of forests near Zabarwan range reducing a substantial tree cover to smouldering rubble. Curiously, the recent fire became a unifying force, getting all the concerned departments to act unanimously.

“It was probably for the first time the departments of forest, wildlife, soil conservation came under one banner to execute a certain task,” an official said.

While the possible triggers are still be debated, a senior official in the Forest department, on the condition of anonymity, told Kashmir Life that often security forces throw burning bidis that are not stubbed properly. “There is certain negligence on their part,” he said. When contacted, CRPF officials dismissed the reports as “baseless”.

What concerns the stake-holders most is the quick succession in which these instances occurred.

While many apprehend the cause of fire to be “anthropogenic”, experts maintain that it might well have taken place in wake of the on-going dry spell.

“The weather during the first two months this year has been hottest in 76 years,” said Shakil Romshoo, who teaches at University of Kashmir’s Geology department. “It has ensured that the forests are replete with enough dry material susceptible to wildfires.”

Romshoo speculated that often nomadic cattle-herders roam around these areas burning pyres to keep themselves warm. “Also, we cannot rule out that someone might have accidentally flung a live cigarette into the grass.”

Brazenly, when the social forestry enclosure caught fire near Brane on 22nd this month, “no one” from the Forest Department or Soil Conservation came forward, sources alleged.

Locals said that it was Wildlife department which came to their rescue. “Wildlife officials rushed to the area first and extinguished the inferno,” they told Kashmir Life.

Repeated calls to the Director Fire and Emergency Services went unanswered. However officials speculated that due to the presence of hilly terrain, it couldn’t have been easier for Fire Services to make a timely intervention.

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