Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the Centre was taking the forest fires in Uttarakhand “very seriously” and making all efforts to control it even as his ministry began trial runs on Sunday for a pre-fire alert system that will issue warnings via SMS.
“Government is taking the forest fires of Uttarakhand very seriously. 6000 people have been deployed for fighting it. We also granted Rs 5 crore to the state. Our top officer, including the DG of Forest department is on the spot guiding the local forces. The air force, the Home Ministry…all are helping and guiding the residents there,” he said.
The government will study the reasons behind such major fires and prepare an action plan accordingly, he said.
“The larger issue is why such fire occurs in the summer season. We will study the reasons and come out with an action plan on how to control it in future all over the country,” Javadekar said.
He said his ministry began trial runs for a pre-fire alert system that will issue warnings via SMS about possible fire outbreaks in the country so that the forest department could attend to them immediately.
“We are issuing fire alerts through satellite since last year. Wherever a fire breaks out in any remote forest, we get to know immediately. But these alerts are only issued after the fire has started,” Javadekar said.
“This is a new technology developed by our forest institutes…It will generate pre-fire alerts. SMS will be sent to all departments and officers concerned so that action can be taken immediately,” he said.
Meanwhile, Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters sprayed water in a bid to control forest fires raging in Uttarakhand. A team of 40 National Disaster Rescue Force (NDRF) personnel were also deployed in Nainital and Almora districts, authorities said.
Javadekar said in New Delhi that the government would investigate how and why the massive fire erupted and spread to such a wide area.
He said it would be seen if timber mafia was behind the blaze. “But our first priority is to douse the fire and give relief to people.”
The Prime Minister’s Office has earmarked Rs.5 crore for the fire-fighting operation. The home ministry is monitoring the situation, Javadekar said.
Forty NDRF personnel had reached Almora, one of the worst hit districts, officials said.
The fires began 88 days ago and have so far destroyed nearly 3,000 acres of forest cover.