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Figures on forest fires misleading: Nature Watch India

Shimla: Nature Watch India today condemned repeated incidents of fire gutting invaluable forest wealth in Himachal Pradesh and also charged the state forest department of misleading the public on the actual extent of impact and damage caused by ongoing fires.

In a press statement issued here, state convener of NWI, Rajesh Negi alleged that the state machinery failed to put into place effective, adequate and timely measures for prevention forest fire. Charging slothful response of fire and forest department toward forest fire, he said that despite warnings from various agencies, including environmentalists, government committees and subsequent working plans have miserably failed to incorporate such steps.

Negi said that frequent forest fires in the state were damaging huge forest wealth, wild life, affecting bio-diversity, leading to loss of soil texture and moisture content, but forest authorities have shown little concern on the issue. “Low priority response has caused sever and continuous damage to the ecology and economy of state as it is effecting Agriculture horticulture and tourism due to its direct and indirect impact on natural environment and ecology,” he alleged. Accusing the state forest department of downplaying the impact of forest fires and number of incidence that occurred this year, he alleged that figures presented by the officials were highly misleading and the loss projected by department not correct.

He rued the official claim that there have been a few forest fire incidences this year involving estimated loss of Rs 72.29 lakh only. He called the claim sketchy, unscientific and ridiculous. Quoting Forest Survey of India reports, Negi alleged that 90 per cent of forest fires were caused by man-made activities to burn surface grass for fresh green grass in the traditional and private grasslands, to scare and hunt wildlife, conversion of forest into agriculture land, and obtaining non-timber forest produces from it.

The pro-environment organization demanded to enforce strict provisions like Forest Act of 1927/1980 and provisions of sections 285/ 435 of IPC to book offenders. Alleging that forest department officials rarely attend their field duty, Negi demanded that 75 per cent field duty should be made compulsory for officers of forest department so that they could be familiar with the factual reality and exact of loss being caused by the fire.

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