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    Wildfires burn through jungle near the northern hill town of Shimla in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh on May 2, 2016

    Forest Fires Strike N India, Threaten to Melt Glaciers, Damage Ecosystem

    © AFP 2019 / STR
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    Forest fires in the Northern Indian state of Uttarakhand could have a catastrophic effect on Himalayan glaciers, experts warn.

    The fires could affect the Permafrost of the glaciers, and even scar the ecosystem. 

    ​Uttarakhand is suffering one of the worst fires in recent years; the inferno has destroyed over 2,000 hectares of forest cover so far. Desperate attempts are being made to douse the raging flames.

    Serious concerns are being expressed about the adverse and long-lasting effects it could have on glaciers in the region.

    According to Manish Kumar, Met Scientist at Aryabhatta Research Institute, Nainital, "The glaciers are the lifeline of the major rivers flowing through India's northern plains and Carbon Black from the smoke and ash covering the glaciers may result in hastening their melting. The river water is also in danger of becoming polluted by the heavy and harmful particles."

    The fire has not only affected people, but is also playing havoc with the ecosystem. Many of the animals, birds and insects that had constituted the biosphere have been wiped out because of the smog created by the fire. It will take years to recover from this calamity.

    The question being asked now is how the fire took such a horrific toll? Was it a natural or a man-made disaster? Many theories exist.

    Some say it's the greed of the land mafia as land without forest cover could be easily allotted to errant developers; for others, it's the timber mafia, which are hugely benefited if the trees are burnt, they would be auctioned at very low prices.

    The official view is this year the forests were exceptionally dry due to low rainfall and thus caught fire naturally. Four people, however, have been arrested in connection with the fire, while investigations are still on to find the cause of the calamity.

    Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force, Army and the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) are playing the savior. The NDRF has deployed a force of 135 personnel to save animals that could have been trapped in the blazing fire. Other than these forces, about 6,000 firefighters are fighting the much-reduced flames now. 

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    environment, ecology, forest fire, India
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