The year 2020 has unleashed a lot of wrath — the novel coronavirus pandemic, followed by a cyclone in West Bengal and Odisha and then swarms of locusts nosediving into villages and cities in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Amid this, pictures of forest fires from Uttarakhand have added to the frenzy of people, especially on social media.
Wildfires in the Himalayan state have reportedly affected over 80 hectares of land and caused losses worth Rs 2.19 lakh.
It is important to note that Uttarakhand witnesses wildfires due to increased temperature and heat waves every year. This year, the state has reported 46 instances of wildfire so far, the maximum number (21) coming from the Kumaon region, followed by 16 instances from Garhwal and 9 from other forest reserves.
After the reports of wildfire emerged, frantic netizens took to social media sharing devastating images, seemingly exaggerating the incident altogether.
Perturbed by the state’s flora and fauna being gutted by the fire, people took to Twitter, making the hashtag #PrayForUttarakhand become the top trend on the micro-blogging platform.
However, the Chief Conservator of Forests at Uttarakhand Forest Department said the public outcry was “misleading” and that “old images are being shared on various social media platforms”.
Similarly, UK Police DG-LO Ashok Kumar, in a tweet, said, “Rumours about forest fire in Uttarakhand using #uttarakhandwildfire #PrayForUttarakhand are completely false and mischievous. Uttarakhand police is going to lodge FIR against such rumour mongers.”
In another statement, the Uttarakhand Forest Department said many images being shared on social media are from older incidents, or even other countries.
Besides, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Jai Raj told The Print that last year, Uttarakhand had lost more than 1,200 hectares of land to massive forest fires. “Compared to that, we have not even crossed the 100-hectare mark (this year),” he said.
“We are doing our best to control them. Our teams are there, it will take some time to douse these fires,” he added.
He attributed the wildfires to a sudden spike in temperature and subsequent heat wave in the last few days, adding that the Met department has predicted rainfall in the coming days, which will help control the fire.