The National Green Tribunal has voiced concern over recurring forest fires in the hill states and directed them to inform it about the steps taken by them to control such incidents. A bench headed by acting NGT Chairperson Jawad Rahim impleaded the Ministry of Environment and Forests as well as the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal in the case.
It also also issued notices to these hill states and asked them to file an affidavit stating measures taken by them to check forest fires, which cause considerable damage to the environment.
"Issue notice to the aforesaid states and who are now impleaded with a direction to them to file an affidavit as to what steps they have taken with regard to National Action Plan for forest fire management at state level. It shall be done within two weeks," the bench said.
During the hearing, the Uttarakhand government told the tribunal that a state forest fire management plan has been finalised and the details of the action taken are mentioned in the report submitted to it. The matter is now listed for next hearing on July 30.
The tribunal was hearing a plea by NGO Friends which had alleged that a "nexus of timber mafia, some greedy villagers and officials" was suspected to be behind the fire incidents which have caused severe degradation of the environment.
In its plea, the NGO had sought an inquiry by judicial authority into the reasons for the fire incidents. It also demanded a ban on the practice of burning of woods for road works. It had alleged that Uttarakhand government has not taken any "effective step to control the fire" due to which almost the entire hilly area was affected.
The plea had claimed that more than "1,300 incidents of forest blaze have taken plan in the present season and more than 2,600 hectares of forest area has been ruined" in the state.