Friday, April 29, 2016

1,600 hectares Uttarakhand forests on fire, timber mafia behind "national emergency", alleges Facebook post

By Our Representative
A Facebook post has created flutter. Poster by Ela Smetacek, who “lives in Delhi", the post talks of a national emergency having overtaken the forests in Uttarakhand. These forests,it says, “Have been burning for over a week now, with no media coverage whatsoever.”
Soon after the post, there has been media effort to find out what exactly has happened, with CNNnews18 tweeting, “Fire engulfs 1,600 hectares of forests in Uttarakhand, threatens 1,500 villages in Kumaon and Garwhal region”.
A whopping 11,000 people shared Ela Smetacek's post in just one day. The post contains explicit photographs of the fire by Anup Sah.
The post saus, “The fires are engulfing thousands of hectares of forest, destroying wild life and killing trees in hundreds of thousands, the toll is estimated to be in tens of crores and higher.”
“We want the media to bring this terrible illicit project that has, according to locals, been carefully orchestrated by timber and land mafia”,  it says.
Smatacek says, “Villagers are paid to set fire to forests and once it goes out the unburned parts are strangely reset till it is all burnt. We caught three young minors setting fires to a birding area in Sattal, and we asked them why. They said their father had told them to set fire to the forest.”
“We put out the fire with water from the lake, and the next day it was again set ablaze”, she further said, quoting Rahul Sharma, a bird expert, adding, Today we saw the dead trees are being marked and cut for sale."
Pointing out these are “just some of the eyewitness accounts of this horrific project”, the post says, adding, The trees that die in the fire and as a result of the fires are cut for timber and sold for hundreds of crores and this ghastly project it clearly a mega windfall for the timber dealers and mafia.”
“Forest panchayats are often in league with these dealers and fires are often lit, every summer. But this year, the entire Uttarakhand is ablaze”, the post alleges, adding, “The hills are the only natural oxygen lung for cities like the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR), and their destruction will dry up the rivers and have an terrible effect on the fate of India.”
Pointing that “when trees die, ground water evaporates”, the post says, “A barren, burnt land is what is left of many mountains where last week, there stood a beautiful forest. News from Nainital, Bhimtal, Sattal, Almora coming in, eye witnesses sending pictures to us and all of them are saying the same thing! The fires aren't being contained!”
Insisting that “local residents” are “concerned about this situation”, the post insists that the authorities should work to “stop the fires, immediately deploy army to fight the fires and contain them from spreading”, there should be a “a fast court” to “arrest all people engaged in setting fires.”
Seeking a “ban burning of private land adjoining forests”, the post says, efforts should be made to stop “the selling of any forest timber, by forest department and local van panchayats” and “set up wild life rehabilitation teams to address the injured wildlife.”

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