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Judiciary

Only 0.1% wildlife cover was on fire, Uttarakhand govt tells SC

By Jhanak Singh      09 May, 2024 06:15 PM      0 Comments
Only wildlife cover was on fire, Uttarakhand govt tells SC

NEW DELHI: The Uttarakhand government on Wednesday contended before the Supreme Court that only 0.1 % of wildlife cover was battling forest fires and some sections of media reported that 40% of Uttarakhand was burning, which was totally misleading.

"There were 398 forest fires from November 2023 till today. All of them man-made," Uttarakhand's Deputy Advocate General Jatinder Kumar Sethi submitted before a bench of Justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta.

The court was hearing the matter related to forest fires in the state of Uttarakhand, on an application filed by senior advocate Rajiv Dutta who was appearing in person.

In his response, Sethi also contended that the phenomena of forest fires was not new to Uttarakhand and every summer the forest department deals with such fires.

"There are long term and short term plans in place which are scrupulously followed and that media hype was created due to one incident near the High Court colony close to the Air Force station housing radars," he said.

Sethi also said the state government had declared a state disaster, pursuant to which, the disaster action plan automatically stood activated and Airforce helicopters were requisitioned to drop water and douse the fires.

Upon hearing the state's response, the court sought to know whether Central Empowered Committee (CEC) could be roped in to assist in future, and posted the matter for further hearing on Wednesday, May 15.

During the hearing, the bench was apparently not satisfied with the Uttarakhand government's submissions of cloud seeding, or rain.

This was not the answer and the state government has to take preventive measures, the court said.

Sethi handed over a 380 page interim status report on behalf of the state government.

He also submitted that a Uttarakhand Forest Fire Mitigation Project 2023-28 was pending with the central government and Uttarakhand Forest Fire Management Plan 2024 was being acted upon.

He assured the SC that the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary were personally monitoring the situation daily and all top forest officers were in the field overseeing operations involving 7500 personnel.

Sethi told the SC that as all the fires were man-made and the state had registered 388 criminal cases in which 60 offenders were named. He also said steps were being taken to confiscate property of repeat offenders.

He submitted that NDRF 15th Battalion was stationed in the state and that the emergency situation was now over and as on Wednesday, only 15 small to intermediate fires were on which were being doused by QRT teams in place.



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