Government to Study Causes of Rampant Forest Fires; Chief Minister Sukhu Proposes Special NDRF Battalion to Combat Forest Fires

Shimla — The state of Himachal Pradesh is in the grip of a severe environmental crisis as unprecedented forest fires continue to devastate vast tracts of land. Since the start of the year, 1,318 fire incidents have been recorded, affecting 12,718 hectares, including 2,789 hectares of plantation areas. The preliminary financial loss from these fires stands at an alarming Rs. 4.61 crore.

In response to this crisis, Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu convened a meeting with the Forest Department to address the situation and devise strategies to mitigate further losses. During the meeting, he announced that the State Government is contemplating the formation of a dedicated battalion of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), specially equipped and trained for firefighting operations.

“The situation is alarming, and we need to take decisive action to protect our forests and biodiversity,” said Chief Minister Sukhu. The proposed NDRF battalion aims to significantly reduce the extensive damage being sustained by the forest areas and provide a rapid response to future fire outbreaks.

Moreover, Chief Minister Sukhu emphasized the need to strengthen fire management services in the state’s most vulnerable areas. He identified 374 forest beats as highly sensitive to forest fires, highlighting the necessity for immediate and robust measures to tackle the fire menace in these zones.

To address the root causes of these frequent and devastating fires, Chief Minister Sukhu directed the Forest Department to commission a comprehensive study by a government agency. This study will investigate the causes of the fires and recommend effective preventive measures to curb their occurrence.

In addition to these measures, the Chief Minister proposed diversifying the coniferous regions with plant species native to the area. This diversification is expected to help retain moisture in the soil, thereby reducing the likelihood of fires.

The forest fires have not spared any part of the state, with Shimla city experiencing significant damage and currently being shrouded in smoke. The deteriorating air quality and visibility in the city have raised serious health concerns among residents. Solan district has emerged as one of the worst-affected areas, with continuous fire outbreaks disrupting daily life and causing extensive damage to property and natural resources. The iconic Kalka-Shimla railway line has also been impacted, with services being hampered multiple times over the past ten days, causing inconvenience to residents and tourists alike.

“The raging forest fires have caused havoc in our state, and every corner is suffering,” Chief Minister Sukhu stated, underlining the urgent need for enhanced fire management and preventive strategies.

As the fires continue to rage, the proposed measures, including the formation of a dedicated NDRF battalion and the diversification of plant species, reflect a multi-faceted approach to tackling this crisis. The people of Himachal Pradesh await swift and effective action to protect their homes, forests, and livelihoods from the devastating impacts of these relentless fires.