Mizoram forest fire rages, burns homes

The fire raged for more than 30 hours, despite the attempts by the IAF and the BSF to douse it.

Mizoram: The Chief Minister Zoramthanga, on Monday began the 12-day statewide ‘Fire Prevention Week’ in Aizawl. He spoke about the importance of fire prevention and how it could save the state crores of rupees.

 According to the Forest Survey of India, Mizoram saw at least 12,726 cases of forest fire since January last year. Of these, the fire at Lunglei and Lawngtlai districts last year was one of the most massive.

The forest fire which began on April 26th 2021, raged on for more than 32 hours. The government had to enlist the help of the Indian Air Force, of Assam Rifles and Border Security Force personnel to combat it.

The fire reportedly started at 7 am on Saturday, in the forested hills near Lunglei town. By Sunday, it had not only affected 10 village council areas within the town, but also spread to three rural development blocks of Lawngtlai district.

 “We managed to control a good part of it last evening itself,” said Kulothungan A, DC, Lunglei district, “However, it erupted again this morning and it is still going on. We are trying but the current high winds and dry vegetation are contributing to its spread and making it challenging.”

However, there have been reports of damage from Lawngtlai district. “In Bungtlang South, the fire completely consumed 12 houses and partially destroyed two. No persons were injured but livestock perished,” said Marilyn Rualzakhumthangi, ADC, Lawngtlai district.

The cause of the fire is still to be ascertained. In February, Mizoram forest officials had said that around 1,300 forest fires were reported in the state in 2020 — while around 1,090 incidents were caused due Jhum cultivation, 210 were due to natural causes. A major part of rural Mizoram practises Jhum cultivation, the slash-and-burn method of farming, which involves clearing a piece of land and then burning it, in a bid to make it more fertile for cultivation thereafter. Many times, the wind carries inflammable material to adjoining areas, which causes them to catch fire.

As per the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Dehradun, forests of the Northeast and central India regions are the most vulnerable areas to forest fires. Forests in Assam, Mizoram and Tripura have been identified as ‘extremely prone’ to forest fire.

FSI’s India State of Forest Report (ISFR)-2019 said that Mizoram has a forest cover of 85.41 per cent.