Guptkashi Forest Fire: COVID Not the Only Worry for U’Khand

Fire management in remote villages remains a serious challenge.

Updated
My Report
3 min read
Fire management in remote villages remain a serious challenge.
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In a turbulent COVID-ravaged year, the pandemic is not the only worry for us – the residents of remote villages in Uttarakhand. Frequent forest fires are just as big a menace. I grew up in Guptkashi, a prominent spiritual town in Rudraprayag dstrict of Uttarakhand. The famous Kedarnath Shrine is located to the north of Guptkashi that has shaped the magnificent valley on both the shores of the Mandakini river. I am fortunate enough to get a wider view of some famous mountain ranges (that is about 7-8 km, aerial distance), including Kedarnath, Kedar Dome, Mandani, Janhukut and the Chaukhamba massif peak.

From my home, I could see the forest fire around remote villages on the mountain ranges.

Guptkashi Forest Fire: COVID Not the Only Worry for U’Khand
(Photo Courtesy: Deepak Bagwari)
Guptkashi Forest Fire: COVID Not the Only Worry for U’Khand
(Photo Courtesy: Deepak Bagwari)

In the last 2-3 months, I have seen forest fires in many places of Uttarakhand. But the forest fires in the oak forest adjacent to the remote villages that raged for several days shook my heart. Other than COVID-19, the state has another emergency to deal with.

Since childhood, I have seen the forests burning in front of my eyes and wondered what would be the loss due to these, as now, forests are burning more frequently. Major health issues like asthma or different types of allergies have also been aggravated. Another direct impact of forest fires on local community is the high occurrence of human-animal conflict. For example, there is increased leopard movement near my village and I have also heard some cases of pets and livestock killings.

Blazes in Remote Areas

I managed to click a series of fires near Kabiltha village. This remote village is situated slightly uphill and is 4 km away from any motorable road. The forest fire in this range started on 10 April and continued to burn till 17 April. Luckily, it rained and the fire was extinguished.

Guptkashi Forest Fire: COVID Not the Only Worry for U’Khand
(Photo Courtesy: Deepak Bagwari)
Guptkashi Forest Fire: COVID Not the Only Worry for U’Khand
(Photo Courtesy: Deepak Bagwari)

The nearest town is Ukhimath, which has a fire station. Fire tenders would need to cover approximately 30 km away by road and is around 4 km by foot. There is no fire station in the area that can douse the fire or repair the damage.

The uncertainty of recurrence and fire management in remote villages a remain serious concern for all of us.

Fires in Eco-Sensitive Zones

A small fraction of Kabiltha village is a pine forest while the larger part above the village is mostly dominated by the oak and rhododendron (locally known as Banj-Buras forest). The high Himalayan ranges are closer from this village. Hence, we could imagine the impact of heavy smoke in this eco-sensitive zone.

Oak forests provide numerous ecosystem benefits and host high plant and animal diversity. Last year's drought and this year's heavy fire are harming the Oak forests.

(All ‘My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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