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Forest Fires – NGT Issues Guidelines for Effective Implementation of Action Plan for Control

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NGT Guidelines for controlling Forest-fires-in-himachal-pradesh

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh is the storehouse of biodiversity and animal life, which exists in perpetual threat of forest fires. Out of total 45,000 species of plants found in the country, 3,295 species (7.32 percent) are present in the state. More than 95 percent of flora species are natural to the state and characteristic of Western Himalayan flora, while about five percent (150 species) are exotic introduced over the last 150 years.

Forest department records show 22 percent, or 8,267 sq km of the total forest area, particularly in the mid and low hills, is fire-prone. Majority of the fires are reported from pine forests since, during summer, the trees shed pine needles that are highly inflammable for their rich content of turpentine oil. The pine forests are found up to an altitude of 5,500 feet.

Official figures show that 2018 was the worst year with 2,469 fire incidents reported — the highest in eight years — that consumed 25,300 hectares of forest across the state. In 2012-13, the second-worst year, pine forest fires consumed 20,773 hectares with a total of 1,798 cases.

There are 196 forest ranges in the state, of which 80 are most sensitive and fire-prone.

Recently A Coram of Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson), J. and S.P. Wangdi (Judicial Member), K. Ramakrishnan (Judicial Member), JJ. and Dr. Nagin Nanda (Expert Member) in Rajiv Dutta v. Union of India laid down guidelines for effective implementation of the action plan for controlling forest fires.

Tribunal in one of its interim Orders had sought a report on:

  • Fire alerts
  •  Mapping of forest areas which are critical and vulnerable
  •  Steps for fire line cutting as preventive measures for forest fires

Further, in the same order, a direction was made to prepare “A National Policy” periodically, and keep it updated under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Section 5 of the Act envisages Forest Fire Management Plans, Crisis Management Policy, plans for relief, rehabilitation and restoration, financial resources, manpower, transport, fire-fighting equipment, community involvement, including 2 involvement of Panchayati Raj Institutions, Van Panchayats, satellite-based forest fire alert system in collaboration with the National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) and the Forest Survey of India (FSI), use of media for information, dissemination and awareness, having a nodal officer to oversee fire prevention and control at Head Quarters to coordinate with different Government agencies, dissemination of best practices and experiences, network of automated surveillance or watch towers/observation posts at strategic locations, mock drill exercises, capacity building at various levels.

The Hon’ble Tribunal, on the basis of the said report submitted by MoEF, gave the following guidelines:

  1. Though a comprehensive action plan had been duly adopted, its implementation required a robust institutional mechanism in view of the increase in the incidents of forest fires.
  2. Institutional mechanism for preventing and controlling forest fires may comprise of representatives of the MoEF&CC, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Wildlife Institute of India, National Disaster Management Authority, Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), Forest Survey of India (FSI) and the National Remote Sensing Centre representing the Central Government on one hand; and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of all the States/Union Territories on the other hand.
  3. The Central Monitoring Committee will be headed by the Secretary of MoEF with seven members mentioned in point no. (ii) above. The Secretary would be free to add any member or expert, apart from special invitees, if any.
  4. Central Monitoring Committee must meet once in three months and address all the issues arising out of forest fires, including the effective implementation of NAPFF.
  5. The Tribunal also noted that from the NAPFF, a national level database must be developed for burnt area assessment on a yearly basis.
  6. Standardized protocols and procedures must be developed by ICFRE and FSI to facilitate the reporting of the area affected and losses due to the forest fire.
  7. ICFRE was also directed to assist in designing and organizing adequate training programs for forest officials at various levels.
  8. The Secretary, MoEF&amp may issue directions for the constitution of an appropriate institutional mechanism at State levels also.

 

Deven Khanna is a Lawyer, practicing at High Court of Himachal Pradesh, other H.P Courts/Tribunals and the Supreme Court of India, he is an alumnus of a National Law School. For any queries related to the articles, he can be contacted at 7018469792 or at khannadeven@gmail.com. The personal blog is at https://lawumbrella.wordpress.com/

Environment

Shrikhand Mahadev Faces Garbage Crisis, IMF Team Collects 1900 kg Garbage During 12-Day Cleaning Campaign

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IMF shrikhand Mahadev Cleaning Campaign 2019 f

Kullu-During 2019 season, a local boy treks the holy shrine of Shrikhand Mahadev. Shrikhand is not only a holy place but is also a very beautiful and picturesque place at an altitude of 5300 metres.

Lalit Mohan had imagined the place to be green, clean and tranquil, which was the reason he had decided to trek it. Little did he know that the mountain was no longer the grand trail he had trekked years ago. He was shocked over what has become of this place. There was crowd everywhere and terraces had been cut over the campsites to accommodate numerous tents. Most of the water sources had dried up and remaining were badly polluted with plastic waste. He was surprised that the situation was the same even at the top, which is supposed to be the holy spot. A lot of offerings were made in plastic bags and glass bottles.

IMF shrikhand Mahadev Cleaning Campaign 2019 2

He returned to Delhi and wrote a letter to the Director of Indian Mountaineering Federation (IMF) for hosting a cleaning drive along the entire trek. With a positive response from the director IMF, Col. H.S. Chauhan, a cleaning drive expedition was planned by the IMF in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports and NSS. A team was formed that comprised of the members of the Indian Mountain Federation Lalit Kanwar, Praveen Dahiya, Hemant Sharma, Nikhil Chauhan and Rajat Jamwal. The team was led by Lalit Mohan. The expedition was flagged off by the SDM, Anni, Kullu district, on October 2, 2019.

The team got to work from the base campsite at Shingad and collected unethically disposed of garbage from the campsites at Brati Nala, Reyosh Thach, Khumba, Thathi Bheel, Thachru, Kali Ghati, Bhim Talai, Kungsha, Bhim Dwar, Parvati Bagh, Nain Sarovar and the Shrine on top. The garbage mostly comprised of remains of plastic sheets, bottles, wrappers, left-over food etc.

IMF shrikhand Mahadev Cleaning Campaign 2019 2

Two major reasons behind this widespread littering and unethical disposal of garbage are the public feasts (Bhandaras) and the pandals erected to host them. Moreover, there were around 700 private tents which were set up throughout the mountain. Also, these tents do not provide even temporary toilets and visitors relieve themselves in open wherever they can. 

It is also important to note that the Kurpan stream, which flows through this valley, is the only snow-fed source of drinking water for many villages.

IMF shrikhand Mahadev Cleaning Campaign 2019 3

It appears that authorities responsible for granting permission for setting up campsites in this fragile environment did not pay any attention to prepare a proper plan for waste management. Most of the area falls in the reserve forest category, and it is surprising to see that according to the forest rules, no one can be granted permission to set up a campsite in a reserve forest area.

Strong religious sentiments are associated with the Shrine of Shrikhand Mahadev, but growing movement of visitors without proper management in such a fragile environment has its own side-effects.
IMF shrikhand Mahadev Cleaning Campaign 2019 4

The team made their way to the top in minus 10 degrees temperature and was shocked to find plastic waste strewn over the glacier too. The team collected a total of 1900 kgs of garbage in about 170 sacks. The sacks were ferried down the mountain with the help of local people, who came ahead to support the team in its quest during the expedition. The team returned to Nirmand village on the October 14. The garbage was deposited with the Block Development officer at Nirmand. The team held meetings with schools students at Jaon and Bagipul villages to spread the message of conserving and protecting the environment and taking steps to maintain cleanliness in the mountains.

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HIMCOSTE ENVIS HUB Training on “Securing High Range Himalayan Ecosystems” Begins Today

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HIMCOSTE ENVIS HUB Training

Shimla- HP ENVIS HUB at Himachal Pradesh Council for Science, Technology and Environment (HIMCOSTE), Shimla, today kicked off its one-month training program on Para-taxonomy under the GoI-UNDP-GEF Project “Securing Livelihoods, Conservation, Sustainable use and Restoration of high range Himalayan Ecosystems” (SECURE Himalaya).

This program is being conducted in collaboration with HP Forest Department and State Biodiversity Board for Lahaul, Pangi and Kinnaur landscapes of the State. Under this program, selected youth would be trained for documentation of local biodiversity in the form of People’s Biodiversity Registers (PBRs).

The Chief Guest of the inaugural function was Dr Savita, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife). Sh. Anil Thakur, CCF (Wildlife) and Dr S.P. Bhardwaj, Retd Associate Director, Regional Fruit Research Station, UHF, Nauni were special guests on the occasion.

Speaking on the inaugural function today, Dr Savita, PCCF (Wildlife) said that snow leopard is the iconic animal of high Himalayas. A good number of these apex predators denote a healthy ecosystem. To ensure the survival of these beautiful animals, sustainable use of forest resources and generation of alternative livelihood opportunities is pertinent.

The initial step to conserving local biodiversity is its documentation as Peoples Biodiversity Registers (PBRs). She lauded the efforts of ENVIS Hub in implementation of Green Skill Development Program (GSDP) last year and now training students in SECURE Project.

Dr Aparna Sharma, Coordinator, HP ENVIS Hub, informed that under this course, selected students would be imparted theoretical and practical knowledge by eminent experts in the fields of botany, zoology, forestry, wildlife, importance and conservation of Biodiversity, waste management, remote sensing & GIS. In association with State Biodiversity Board, field visits would be carried out to prominent Universities, Research Institutions and conservation areas of Himachal Pradesh for exposure to local flora, fauna and its documentation in PBRs.

A total of nine students have been selected for the training program: six from Pangi, two from Lahaul and one from Shimla. The best of trained youth would be involved in making PBRs in selected landscapes by the HP State Biodiversity Board.

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Video: CM Jairam Urges People to Celebrate Green Diwali After Setting Cracker Laden Effigies on Fire

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CM Jairam burns effigy laden with crackers

Shimla-Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on the occasion of Dussehra set ablaze the effigy of Ravana, Meghnad, and Kumbhkarana on fire at Jakhu Temple in Shimla. Afterwards, while talking to media persons, the CM talked about the harmful effect of fire-crackers on the environment and urged the people of the state to refrain from using fire-crackers while celebrating Dussehra and Diwali.

He said considering the grieve problem of pollution that the world is currently facing, it’s the need of the hour to take concrete steps towards environmental protection. He said every individual should be encouraged to celebrate green Diwali.

However, it appeared that his government was not practising what it was preaching. The effigies that the CM set ablaze were filled with fire-crackers. Moreover, a round of fireworks was held right before ‘Ravana Dahan’.

There was a suitable opportunity for the CM and the organizers to send out an environment-friendly message on this Dussehra by refraining from using fire-crackers in effigies, which they missed.

On this occasion, the Education Minister Suresh Bhardwaj, Deputy Commissioner Amit Kashyap, Narinder Bragta, chairman, HIMFED, Ganesh Dutt, Deputy Mayor Rakesh Sharma, and SP Omapati Jamwal were also present. All of them appeared to be clueless about sending a “Green” message.

Further, the Chief Minister talked about the victory of good over evil and taking the path of righteousness.

Dussehra festival signifies the victory of good over evil, truth over false and dharma over adharma. The Dussehra festival inspires us to follow the path of dharma (righteousness) and truth as in the end truth always wins,

he said.

He urged the people to work collectively to kill the demon of drug abuse from society. He laid the foundation stone of Nav Grah Mandir to be constructed at a cost of Rs. 15 lakh and also inaugurated a Museum at Jakhu Temple Complex.

Effigies were burnt at various places in Shimla including Summerhill, Chakkar, Kasumpti, Boileauganj, Vikasnagar etc. All the effigies were filled up with fire-crackers, which suggest that the government’s movement to discourage using fire-crackers is not yielding any results.

Similarly, cracker laden effigies were burnt in other districts of the state too.

Apparently, we need to devise innovative ways to make the celebrations of Dusshera and Diwali green. For example, a green celebration of Dusshera was witnessed in Delhi where a Ravana made of balloons was taken down without burning.

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