Some horrific photos and videos of wildfires claiming to be that of Uttarakhand flooded Twitter on Wednesday. Netizens took to Twitter to share some gut-wrenching photos of the devastating effects of the wildfires that are taking over the region.
These pictures were also shared by many tourism adventure groups on social media.
These images shared on social media sites soon drew traction and many media houses reported that Uttarakhand has been burning in a forest fire for the last four days. According to these reports, as many as 46 such forest fires which have affected over 51.34 hectares of forest land have been raging in the hill state of Uttarakhand over the last four days.
A few left-liberal websites like Scoopwhoop and The Logical Indian, quickly used it and attributed misleading, ‘clickbait’ headline to these old pictures to sensationalize the news.
Uttarakhand CM and police rebut these claims
But how far are these claims true? Are the forests in Uttarakhand really burning? Uttarakhand police today took to Twitter to rebut these claims. Calling it completely false and mischievous, Uttarakhand police urged the public not to fall prey to such rumours. They said that the police will look into the matter and an FIR against concerned persons involved in spreading the false news will be lodged soon.
Rumours that Uttarakhand is in the grip of forest fires are completely false & mischievous. We urge the public not to fall prey to such rumours. FIR will be lodged against all persons spreading such rumours. Do report them to us. @tsrawatbjp @ABPNews @aajtak @ANI @ZeeNews— Uttarakhand Police (@uttarakhandcops) May 27, 2020
Parag Madhukar Dhakate, Chief Conservator of Forests of Western Circle (Uttarakhand) also said that there is a lot of misinformation, old photos and fake news being circulated on social media. He said that in fact, there has been a reduction in the fire as compared to the past years as it has been raining every few days so there is moisture and lesser incidents of wildfire.
The IFS Association Uttarakhand has also given a comparison of the actual facts of the fire in the forests of Uttarakhand in the year 2020 through a graph. It is clear from the comparison of forest fires in 2019 and 2020 that the fire of 2020 is less as comapred to the previous year.
Moreover, sharing the above information, the CM of Uttarakhand Trivendra Singh Rawat also called out the propaganda machinery, who tried to pass off old 2016 and 2019 images, that too of forest fires in Chilean and Chinese forests as recent ones in Uttarakhand, to instil fear amongst people.
मुझे यह कहते हुए बड़ा दुःख हो रहा है कि सोशल मीडिया पर कई नामी-गिरामी हस्तियाँ “उत्तराखंड जल रहा है” जैसे एक भ्रामक दुष्प्रचार का हिस्सा बनी हैं. आप सभी से इतनी अपेक्षा है कि अपने नाम का इस तरह से दुरुपयोग न होने दें. https://t.co/UuQLTORMpX— Trivendra Singh Rawat (@tsrawatbjp) May 27, 2020
The fact is that the forest fires in Uttarakhand aren’t remotely as severe as these social media posts claim. Uttarakhand had lost more than 1,200 hectares in the massive forest fires in May last year. Compared to that, it has not even crossed the 100-hectare mark this year. Jai Raj, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests said in a statement that this May the weather was considerably favourable, which kept the fires under control. However, the rapidly rising temperatures over the last few days triggered the forest fire incidents.
Almost all of the photos being shared on social media does not belong to the current fires in Uttarakhand. Most of them are from various places in the world outside India, and although some are from Uttarakhand, they are from previous years. For example, a photograph of fire in 2016 in the state, as seen in this report, has been widely circulated as a current photo.
“We are doing our best to control them. Our teams are there, it will take some time to douse these fires,” he said. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has also predicted that the region will receive rainfall Wednesday, which will help further control the fires, Raj added.