Uttarakhand forest fire: Timber Mafia flexes muscles

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The forest fire in Uttarakhand was not natural. It was very much man-made. Amid climate changes and worrying environmental statistics, this situation adds on to the burden of nature conservers and naturalists.

It all began when experts started digging into the 'natural' causes that may have caused the week-long fire building inside the forest. It is to be noticed here that a total of 398 cases have been reported in the past 7 days alone. This has not only hampered the lives of animals here, it has also destroyed the scenic beauty of the forest that once held the key to tourism here.

forest fire

The forest destruction runs into hundreds and thousands of dead trees that started a vicious nexus running deep into the corrup system. Speaking of the massive destruction, a forest official said,:

"Millions of animals, birds and insects have been charred. You see builders want the trees to burn and die in areas where the locals own forested land. They can only sell once the trees die as they can then build on the land. Villagers sell the timber and a nexus is formed, this scale of burning all over the state is mind-boggling, and the wood alone from these fires will earn thousands of crores to the illicit timber black marketeers."

No way to fight the perpetrators

Extreme poverty forces the villagers to sell the timber and the mafia prevalent buys it at a good price. Interestingly, this very patch is now clear for real estate, providing a two-way profit for timber black-marketeers.

The cycle continues unobstructed as the villagers are poor and they need money and the nexus continues to give them a reason to burn their patch of the forest.

[Read: Uttarakhand forest fire continues; deployed personnel doubled to 6,000]

However, there is another inherent problem that is often being ignored- the lack of forest staff. Ruing about the present condition of the forest department, the official added, "They are powerful as long as they buy wood locals will sell it. And we are understaffed. How much can we do? There are right now 16 calls and we are already busy. They are all just eating money."

A local resident of Bhimtal said, "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."

Statistics that cannot be ignored anymore

According to the Pioneer, the 398 forest fires have already gutted 674.58 hectares of forest. So much so that the populated areas are also being affected.

This is a grim state as both civil and reserve forest have been affected. The other areas, apart from the Garhwal region, that have been affected include:

The Bhagirathi Circle, which had 118 fire incidents, affecting 129.50 hectares
The Yamuna Circle, which had 22 fire incidents, affecting 57.60 hectares of forests

Of the 353.70 hectares of land destroyed in the Garhwal circle, 123.45 hectares were part of the reserve forest and 230.25 hectares of the civil forest area.

Having said that, it is important that we stood by our forest reserves at this time of need and stop the Timber nexus right away. Otherwise, the day is not far when we will be left with empty hands and a sad story of environment conservation.

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