Jammu and Kashmir witnessed unprecedented 781 forest fire incidents in 2016 as the Forest department failed to spend 90 per cent of funds earmarked for forest fire management putting question mark over the functioning of the department.
As per the official report of the Forest department, the year 2016 witnessed unprecedented forest fire incidents. "Nearly 781 forest fire incidents were reported in the state. These infernos affected staggering 2556.3 hectares, which is over 200 percent higher than the corresponding year 2015," the report stated. "Of 781 incidents, 289 fire incidents were reported in Kashmir and 492 in Jammu region," the report added.
" In 2015, 214 fire incidents were witnessed across the state and the area affected was 341.4 hectares. In 2014 and 2013, 470 and 278 forest fire incidents were recorded in the state," the report added.
"While the forest fire incidents are witnessing increase, 90 percent of the funds spent on forest fire management have remained unspent," the report states.
As per the report, Forest Department released Rs 10.50 lakh for forest fire management in 2016 but only Rs 1.13 lakh were spent during the same period. Similarly the funds allocated for dousing forest fire has dwindled over the years.
The report acknowledges that the forest fire incidents in 2016 have been higher in comparison to previous years. "In 2016 maximum number of fire incidents coincided with the accumulation of combustible materials in the forest, coupled with the long dry spell and delayed/deficit rains during monsoon season. The forest fires are normally common in tropical and sub-tropical areas whereas their intensity and frequency in temperate regions has not been much," the report states.
"The global changes in climate have changed the pattern of precipitation. Last year there was no snowfall during winter and it was followed by a long uninterrupted dry spell which broke all the records. This resulted in unprecedented accidental fires which gave torrid time to the Forest department," the report states.
"The preventive measures for restriction of forest fires are normally creation of fire lines and also removal of inflammable material, when latter is not possible Forest Department within its limited resources tries to maintain the existing fire lines within the budgetary allocations," the report states.