Canals are drying up. Over a third of India’s districts are suffering from famines right now. But wait! There is more. If the lack of clean water wasn’t enough, now we have forest fires to add to the mix.
The forests of Uttarakhand have been burning for days now. Soaring temperatures and severe drought conditions have dried up the land which has facilitated the spread of wildfires all across the state.
The situation got really serious on Thursday when the Governor of Uttarakhand KK Paul ordered an increase in personnel, firefighters, and equipment to deal with the issue as soon as possible. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) teams have been deployed to tackle the issue.
Along with that, tankers have been issued on a long-term basis to provide water to douse the flames. The government has also decided to spread awareness about how to control these fires and stop them from ever happening in the first place, as it recognizes that many villagers burn an area of the forest for cultivation.
The situation is so critical right now that even a small piece of burning paper or matchstick could rapidly lead to a blaze in the entire surrounding area within minutes.
But this crisis is not a recent one. According to media reports (few as they were), forest fires have been breaking out in Uttarakhand for the past 3 months. What were the news agencies doing till now? Where was the government intervention required to deal with the issue? Oh wait, they were all in Dehradun, focusing on whether presidential rule should be applied or not.
What good is a presidential rule – or any rule for that matter – if all you have under you is a wide expanse of burnt land?
Sometimes I feel that our politicians’ skill to prioritize the wrong things is unmatched throughout the world.
All this is happening barely three years after the same state had to face one of the worst floods ever to strike India. It surely looks like the government hasn’t learnt its lessons yet. Even now, lack of proper equipment is hampering rescue efforts.
The Uttarakhand Wildfire is hogging the limelight right now because of its intensity and spread. But in April alone, forest reserves in Karnataka and Maharashtra had to deal with forest fires too which took more than two days to extinguish in each case. I never got to know about them until I specifically searched for them.
First, you have a drastic change in weather which leads to parched throats and burnt lands. Second, you have an inefficient government whose level of unpreparedness reaches new heights every time calamity strikes. It is the perfect recipe for a disaster.
Let’s hope that the government wakes up from its stupor soon. Because God knows, the way temperatures are rising this year, we will need all the help we can get.
To go back to what happened in 2013, read this – One of The Worst Disasters Of Recent Times: Kedarnath And Uttarakhand
Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.