An average of 31 forest fires per day in Himachal Pradesh

Between April and June, unprecedented fires torched 0.45 per cent of the state’s surface. The forest department blames an increasingly dry climate and human negligence. Locals pin the fires on wrong development projects that are altering the environmental balance.

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) – Forest fires are becoming a major issue in the Himalayas, especially in Himachal Pradesh, a state in northern India where forests cover 66 per cent of its territory.

The state’s Forest Protection and Fire Control Division recorded 2,763 fires between 1 April and 30 June 2022, an average of 31 per day, this according to Mongabay, an environmental science and conservation news platform.

Usually, this is the period when forest fires are at their most intense. This year’s figures are the highest since 2007 and already exceed the annual record for previous years. The previous worst record was in the 2018/2019 fiscal year with 2,544 fires.

In all, 23,239 hectares of forest area was destroyed between April and June this year, 18,600 of natural forest areas and another 4,500 hectares of new plantation.

The area that burnt covers 0.45 per cent of the state’s total surface. Damages were estimated to be around 640 million rupees (US$ 8 million).

During the operation to put out the fires, three forest department staff members died.

For the department, the increasingly dry climate is to blame – in April Himachal Pradesh received only 10 per cent of its usual rainfall – but also human negligence and arson.

According to Mongabay, the local population blames large-scale development projects that are altering the local environmental balance.