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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
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In The Line Of Fire

Why does a forest in Kashmir catch fire? Well, even peacetime looks like war in the border areas. Artillery fire from across, and our own firing ranges, constantly singe the woods.

In The Line Of Fire
In The Line Of Fire
outlookindia.com
2021-05-07T13:56:53+05:30

Forests catch fire for many reasons, but near the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, there is an additional factor: routine cross-LoC shelling that has long been a marker of strained Indo-Pak relations in these parts even when the two countries are not at war. No wonder, not just people living close to the LoC but also the forests breathe a little more freely when the mortars fall silent. And the mortars have ind­eed been silent since the two neighbours agreed to a “strict observance ceasefire” in February. Earlier, according to forest officials, mortar shelling was leading to frequent forest fires.

“Forests in areas like Saidpur and Badar Kot used to catch fire due to ­regular shelling, and the fires were ­difficult to extinguish amid continuous shelling and firing,” says an official. Until last year, there were fires every year in the forests along the LoC ­during summer, especially in the Nowshera sector of Rajouri district and Karnah sector in Kashmir—all ­attributed to cross-LoC shelling. In May last year, a massive fire engulfed a large forested stretch at Mendhar in Balakote sector of Poonch district. Exploding shells caused the fire, which, in turn, triggered several ­landmines that had been planted to ­prevent infiltration. In May 2017, Nowshera witnessed a forest fire that raged for several days after heavy shelling across the LoC.

“Firing ranges of the army also ­contribute to fires and loss of forest cover,” says Ghulam Rasool, an environmental and RTI activist. “For ­example, the Tosamaidan meadow, about 45 km northwest of Srinagar, was used by the army as a firing range until 2013. A part of the forest cover there was burnt over the years due to artillery fire. Since 2013, there have been various campaigns for...

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