The forests of Himachal Pradesh cover 66% of the geographical area of the state and are rich in biodiversity, which plays an important role in preserving the delicate ecosystem of the Himalayas.
The growing incidence of fires in Himachal Pradesh has become a major cause of concern for the authorities and citizens, especially as forests are not only important for the environmental, ecological and economic well-being but also provide environmental services to the lowland states.
Official data shows that fires have broken out in several districts of Himachal Pradesh this year. According to data shared with Himachal Pradesh Fire Control and Forest Protection Division, the state recorded 2,763 fires from April 1 to June 30 this year, with an average of 31 fires every day.
Dharamsala district topped the list with 618 fires during this period, followed by Chamba (522), Mandi (364), Shimla (286) and Hamirpur (285), Rampur (190), Bilaspur (151) and Solan (110). According to department records, this is the highest number recorded by the department since it opened in Bilaspur in 2007.
In comparison, in previous years, the number of fires throughout the year was lower than the 2,763 incidents recorded so far in the state. The fiscal year 2021-22 was marked by 1,275 fires. There were 1,045 fires in 2020-21 and 1,445 in 2019-20. So far this year, the highest number of forest fires in one year was 2009-10 (1,906) and 2018-19 (2,544).
About 23,239 hectares of forest or about 0.45% of the state have been affected by the fire. The total valuation of the impact of the fires was Rs. 64 crores (Rs. 640 million), data revealed.
Of the total affected area, 18,600 hectares are part of natural forests and another 4,500 hectares were new plantations.
In an attempt to extinguish the forest fire, three forest department employees, one each in Una, Renukaji and Shimla were killed during the field operation.