Gaighat, March 18
With the onset of dry and windy season, incidents of wildfire have increased in Udayapur.
Wildfire spread through Hariyali Community Forest in Chaudhandi Municipality-9 at 3:00pm yesterday. Police brought the blaze under control with the support of locals and employees of the District Forest Office after five hours, said Udayapur DFO’s assistant forest officer Jageswor Sah. Sah said the fire had destroyed forest spread over 17-hectare land.
A fire fighter from the municipality was used to put out the fire.
Wildfire causes damage worth millions to national and community forests every year in the district. Though incidents of wildfire are reported frequently in the district, the forest office and community forest users’ groups do little or nothing to control wildfires in the district.
It was revealed that yesterday’s wildfire was the result of human negligence. It was found that fire broke out in the forest after cattle grazers made fire out of dried leaves while they were in the forest to tending livestock. The forest office, however, has no record of arrest or punishment.
Sah said forests in the district have started catching fire for the past fortnight. Increasing temperature and the wind spark the wildfire. District Forest Office spends Rs one million to control wildfire every year, but to no avail. The money is mostly spent on newspaper advertisements and organising workshops.
Retired assistant forest officer Raj Kumar Thakur said that only 10 per cent of the allocated budget was being spent on controlling wildfire incidents. “All money is pocketed by forest officers. Expenses are shown on paper only, nothing concrete has been done to control wildfire in the district so far,” Thakur said.
Three sectors and 35 area forest offices are under the Forest Office in Udayapur.
Assistant Forest Officer Sah said that his office had issued directive to all the unit offices and community forest users’ groups to stay alert against possible incidents of wildfire.
A version of this article appears in print on March 19, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.