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Phawngpui National Park catches fire

 Staff Reporter Aizawl, Apr 28:

 Phawngpui National Park in Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district today caught fire, as forest fires continued to ravage southern parts of Mizoram.


Reports from Lunglei said forest area of Sangau village, adjacent to the national park has been ravaged by wildfires since the past few days.


“The wildfire in the surrounding forest today spread towards the Phawngpui national park. The wildfire, intensified by dry leaves and wind, is now beyond the control of the local people who have been trying to prevent the fire from spreading towards the national park,” a source from Lunglei said.


Villagers around the national park have since Sunday sounded alarm that Phawngpui national park was on the verge of catching wildfires.


One of the two national parks in Mizoram, Phawngpui national park is located in the Lawngtlai district, towards the southeast of Mizoram and relatively close to Burma. It bears the name of the mountain Phawngpui, also called the Blue Mountain, which is the highest mountain peak in the state. The national park covers the entire mountain along with the surrounding reserve forest. It provided habitat towide range of birds and animal.


According to officials, forest fires broke out in at least five districts- Lunglei, Lawngtlai, Hnahthial, and Siaha, in the southern part of the state, and Serchhip district in central Mizoram prompting the state government to seek help. However, no human casualty has been reported so far.


Over 450 incidents of fire have been reported in Mizoram since early 2019 claiming at least seven lives and injuring 11, fire statistics recorded by the fire and emergency services of the state home department said. According official data, at least 459 fire incidents were reported from January, 2019 to March, 2021 of which 346 were forest fires. As per reports, so far 53 villages have been affected in the forest fires this year, and 14 houses have been destroyed. Under-secretary in the disaster management and rehabilitation department Malsawmtluanga Fanchun said about 5,789.5 acres of forest area has been destroyed in the forest fire. The prolonged dry season has added to the forest fire spreading faster, devouring vast areas in the six districts including Champhai, Hnahthial, Lunglei, Lawngtlai, Khawzawl and Serchhip in the state, where 85% of thetotal area is covered by forests. While no human casualties have been reported at least 60 people have been shifted to relief camps, officials said.


While the IAF choppers were successful in bringing wildfires in Lunglei under control by spraying water, the fire could erupt again owing to the dry and windy conditions, forest officials have said.


M Misael, chief executive officer, Lunglei Disaster Management Authority, was quoted as saying, “There are still reports of small fires in some non-settlement areas of some villages. The situation is unpredictable, and the flames could flare up again due to winds and dry weather.” He also added that apart from the loss of some standing crops, there has not been any major damage to human settlements.


Even though dry weather has been attributed as the reason behind the fire, the government has said that they will probe the incident to find the exact cause. Lunglei deputy commissioner and District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) chairman Kulothungan A had convened an emergency meeting with key stakeholders in his office on Sunday. A probe is also on to find out what or who caused the fire.


It added that the officials believe that the cause of the fire may be manmade and therefore, a meeting will be convened with village councils and Young Mizo Association (YMA) leaders of the affected areas.


(Source: Newslink Vol-XXIII no. 87 Aizawl April 29, Thursday 2021)