A massive fire in some 13 districts in Uttrakhand, has engulfed over 2,000 hectares of forest, destroyed wildlife and trees, and killed at least six people- including three women and one child.
The magnitude of fire led to the state government employing National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams in several districts including Pauri, Chamoli and Almora, along with two IAF Mi17 choppers to try and douse the flames. Around 6,000 state personnel have been deployed to tackle the fires.
The conflagration has brought to the fore one burning question. What was the cause of fire and who was behind it?
The problem is deep-rooted as the Facebook page of Ela Smetacek alleges that forest fires may be started by the land mafia.
In her post she quoted Rahul Sharma, a bird expert, saying, “Villagers are paid to set fire to forests and once it goes out the unburned parts are strangely reset till it is all burnt.”
Those who wander across the hill state, say that forest fires clear the forest of additional vegetation and then it comes handy for humans to “occupy” it.
Reports say that rich and the wealthy from the plains are always in search of land to build their houses, resorts and hotels in the hills. So such fires become a good source for inhabitation.
Sometimes locals too are involved in such condemnable activity. In some areas, like Nachani, Pithoragarh, villagers are guarding forests to prevent “anti-social elements” from setting the forests on fire, a media report said.