A week on, Manipur-Nagaland battle to tame Dzukou wildfire
Kohima: Amid the ongoing fires burning the Dzukou valley, an ecological hotspot in the Northeast region that shares boundary with Nagaland and Manipur, both states are now struggling to douse the raging fires.
Fire at the Dzukou range started in the Southern Angami region of Nagaland on December 29, and by Wednesday, had completely ravaged Manipur’s highest peak Mount Iso. Over the last eight days, however, the firefighting teams have been able to control only 60 per cent of the flames, as high velocity winds continue to reignite fires and hamper operations.
Johnny Ruangmei, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority (NSDMA) told EastMojo that the fire at Dzukou, which was first reported on December 29, continues to spread as on Wednesday.
"The fire is still spreading. We have decided not to demobilize the ongoing operations. We will continue with more reinforcement," Ruangmei said.
After taking up the issue of deployment of additional National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) forces with Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Tuesday, Ruangmei said three additional teams arrived in Nagaland on Wednesday.
“From the state government’s side, more police forces, home guards and civil defence personnel, and if possible, local volunteers will be engaged,” he told EastMojo.
According to the officer, four Indian Air Force (IAF) choppers are being used on a daily basis to douse the fire at Dzukou. “We have requested for four more choppers and waiting for them to be deployed,” he said.
The administration, he said, is making all efforts to ensure that the main valley remains unaffected.
“On the Nagaland side, we are making sure that fire should not enter the main valley. Our forces are trying to find a way through all inaccessible routes to make the fire control line,” he added.
A review meeting with all stakeholders, including senior officials from Nagaland police, forest department, district administration and NDRF, on Wednesday held by Home Commissioner Nagaland Abhijit Sinha, was told that the fire is moving towards north-side of the Dzukou Valley, as reported by the IAF pilots.
Deputy Commissioner, Kohima, Mohammed Ali Shihab A said the administration is now planning more fire line cutting to intensify the operations by Thursday. "We will increase the number of sorties with the IAF. As the fire incident locations are far from the base camp, we will also increase the stationed force by setting up more tents in the base camps to create accommodation for NDRF and others."
The Nagaland administration is also looking to survey an alternative route "to reach the fire incident sites for containment of the inferno".
With more damage reported on the Manipur side, it has been a difficult task for the ground teams to reach the affected areas.
The NDRF has deployed seven teams in the affected areas of Kohima district in Nagaland and Senapati district of Manipur to assist the firefighters in extinguishing the forest fire.
Out of those, three NDRF teams are approaching the affected area from the western-side near Essi hills in Kohima district, and the rest are approaching from the eastern-side at Mao in Senapati.
Senapati District Commissioner Th Kirankumar told EastMojo that teams were sent from Yangkhullen and Mao Pungdong side of the valley.
"Going from Yangkhullen side took a day to trek/travel and so we are not considering that again. The other team from Mao Pungdong was able to open up the second front with the help of police team, villagers, as well as forest and fire services today," Kirankumar said.
"We are in constant touch with officials of Nagaland."
Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio on Tuesday made an aerial survey of the wildfire at Dzukou. Taking to Twitter, the chief minister said: “The destruction of God-given beauty and resources of the Dzukou valley is sad. I hope we will all strive to support the efforts of preserving and promoting the rich biodiversity of the valley and learn to live in harmony with nature”.
Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh on Wednesday visited the family members of an assistant sub-inspector with the NDRF who was found dead at the base camp set up in the ongoing firefighting operations at the Manipur-Nagaland border.
As per reports, ASI Nongthombam Binoy Meetei, a resident of Luwangshangbam Maning Leikai of Imphal East district, went for night patrolling and did not wake up from his sleep on Tuesday morning. Though his post-mortem report isn't out yet, he is suspected to have died of heart attack due to low temperature at the base camp.
Offering his condolence to the deceased family, CM Biren Singh also assured appropriate compensation to Meetei's family. "Govt will look into to provide appropriate compensation and rehabilitation to the deceased family," said Singh.
Meetei joined the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in 1999 and was on a deputation with NDRF. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
“Deeply saddened on hearing the news of the demise of Asst Sub-Inspector N.Binoy Meetei of @NDRFHQ , currently deployed at Dzuko for the ongoing firefighting operation. My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the deceased and pray for peace of the departed soul,” the chief minister had tweeted n Tuesday.
Earlier, the CM also took to Twitter to inform that he had received a call from Union Home Minister Amit Shah to assess and discuss the situation about the wildfire at Dzukou valley. “Amit Shah Ji has assured all the necessary assistance from the Home Ministry to contain the situation at earliest,” the Singh tweeted on Friday.