The Supreme Court on Wednesday took serious note of the increasing incidents of forest fires in Uttarakhand, and asked the state to look for long-term measures to save the environment.

Senior Advocate Rajiv Datta, the petitioner who appeared in person before the bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta, requested that the case needed to be taken up at the earliest as the fire was spreading rapidly.

Datta told the bench that, “Immediately after a fire, there is a land use change application filed before the authorities saying a specific area had no forest left after the fire. So, we know who is behind the fires. People say 40 per cent of Uttarakhand is on fire.”

At this, the bench asked the counsel for Uttarakhand about the status of forest fires in the state, “We have seen the videos on social media with regard to the fires. You need to do something.”

Advocate Jatinder Kumar Sethi, the counsel for the Uttarakhand government, responded saying, “There are 398 fires in Uttarakhand so far and all are man-made, and we have registered 350 criminal cases so far and 62 people have been named in the cases and there are 290 unidentified suspects. We are taking all necessary actions to control the fire.”

Sethi also insisted that only 0.1 per cent of forest cover was affected by the forest fires, while some sections of the media were reporting that 40 per cent of Uttarakhand was burning, which was totally misleading.

At this, the bench wanted to know how the Central Empowered Committee on Environment could be involved in this.

The Uttarakhand counsel also informed the bench that, “We are doing cloud seeding for rain.”

Justice Mehta responded, “But you can’t depend on rain gods and cloud seeding. There should be a better way to stop this. The government should act faster.”

Explaining the reasons for the fires, counsel for Uttarakhand added, “We are taking every possible step. This fire will increase in the next two months, and this cycle keeps on happening every four years.”

The bench slated the matter for further hearing on May 15. The court was hearing a plea on the forest fires in Uttarakhand, where 910 such incidents have occurred since November 1 last year, damaging about 1,145 hectares of forest cover.

Published By:

ramesh sharma

Published On:

May 8, 2024