Voicing concern over the forest fires raging in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, the National Green Tribunal today it was shocked that everybody was taking the issue “so casually” and issued show cause notices to both the states. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) as to what they have done in the matter to control the situation.
“What have you (MoEF) done regarding the fire? It shocks us. Everybody is taking it so casually,” the bench said. Responding to the query, the counsel appearing for MoEF said that entire team of officials concerned was working on the issues and choppers of Indian Air Force (IAF) have also been deployed in the ongoing firefighting operations.
To this, the bench asked Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh state governments, “What is your preparedness to prevent such incidents?” The bench, however, asked the advocates for these states to take instructions on this issue.
“Issue notices to the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh to show cause about the forest fires that have occurred in both the states,” the bench said, adding that the concerned secretaries would file their affidavits in this regard on the next date of hearing on May 10.
The green panel also directed them to inform it about the preventive steps taken by them prior to the fire incident and also about the forest management plans. “We want to know the cause of fire,” the bench said.
The observations came while the NGT was hearing arguments on the petition filed by an NGO against alleged “unregulated” operation of rafting camps in Rishikesh and other areas on the banks of river Ganga. Massive forest fires have engulfed a large part of areas in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
In Uttarakhand, two IAF choppers and over 10,000 personnel have been deployed in the firefighting operations. The Centre has claimed that situation in the state was “under control”. Forest area of over 3000 hectares have been blighted in Uttarakhand due to the fire.