Video Editor: Mohd Irshad AlamA thick blanket of smoke is suffocating the forests of Uttarakhand. Large tracts in Kumaon and Garhwal have intermittently been on fire for about a month and are showing little sign of dying down.This is an annual affair which wreaks havoc on the wildlife in the state, destroys the forest cover with brutal efficiency and releases massive amounts of pollutants into the air. Strong summer winds help spread the devastation faster and farther.This year alone 1,400 separate cases of fires have been responsible for the destruction of over 2,000 hectares of forest land in Uttarakhand. The lack of government planning and mechanisms for dealing with this annual disaster is painfully evident.The Reasons Behind the FireThe forests of Uttarakhand are densely populated with pine trees, the dead leaves of which catch fire easily and help spread it across the forest floor.Another reason is that the local villagers often light leaves on fire and throw away burning cigarettes or bidis into the forest, which later birth massive fires.The relocation of forest dwelling tribal communities, which used traditional methods to prevent and control fires, also contributes to the disaster. It leaves them with no incentive to maintain their forests as they no longer have access to forest produce.Forests in the East and West Himalayan regions of Uttarakhand have also been receiving irregular and scant rainfall. Natural water sources in the area have been drying up and temperatures are soaring.Nature or Locals: Who is to Blame for Uttarakhand Forest Fires?Spreading Like WildfireFor the past few years the fires have been progressively worsening.Government figures indicate that between 2011 and 2017 the instances of forest fires have have nearly tripled. While there were 13,898 incidents in 2011, just six years later the figure had gone up to 35,888.Discussions in the Lok Sabha indicate that apart from Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Odisha are the states worst affected by forest fires.The loss of property in Uttarakhand alone amounts to Rs 35 lakh this year, indicate government figures. The loss of valuable forest cover with trees like Deodar and Oak may run into crores of rupees.Despite the huge annual losses the Uttarakhand government seems to be oblivious to the issue and hasn’t put in place any effective measures to deal with the forest fires.(Translated by Viraj Gaur. Click here to read the original article in Hindi.) We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.