Down To Earth | April 25, 2022
On April 19, 2022, 117 fresh forest fire incidents were reported in Uttarakhand by the forest department. The fire season which began this year on February 15 has affected more than 1020 hectares of forest land including 725 hectares of reserved forest area. In just over a week from April 18 to April 25, there were 362 major forest fire reports from across India. More than half of them were reported from one mountainous state of Uttrakhand. But why is this happening? India had recorded its warmest March in 122 years and the mountain regions of India have been particularly affected by these heatwaves of 2022. Like the plains, according to IMD, the average temperature during the initial summer months has been at least 5-7 degrees above normal in hilly regions of the country. High-altitude places such as Badrinath and Kedarnath have been left with very little snow this year compared to a thick blanket of snow in the previous years. The Ladakh which has a minimum elevation of 2,550 meters is witnessing a heatwave. Drass a town in Ladakh is at an elevation of over 3,000 meters and is one of the coldest places in the country. It recorded 22.6 degrees Celsius in the month of April when the temperatures should not cross about 15 degrees celsius. In Himachal Pradesh, Una recorded 42.5 degrees Celsius, a departure of seven degrees Celsius from the normal, while Solan recorded 35.5 degrees Celsius, a departure of six degrees Celsius from the normal, according to IMD. This is unusual because the mountainous states in India are not prone to heatwaves. Himachal Pradesh for example has recorded 21 days of heatwaves since March 2022, which is only second after Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The hot weather is attributed to the lack of rainfall due to the absence of active western disturbances over north India and any central system over the country’s southern parts. According to experts, The hot winds blowing in from Pakistan could also have been the reasons behind the unusually high temperatures in many Himalayan areas. IMD has also warned about the increase in temperature and the potential for more heatwaves in the mountain regions of the country. While heatwaves are increasing, what is even more worrying is that the number of extremely cold days in the Himalayas is decreasing putting extreme stress on glaciers and other water reserves of the region.