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Uttarakhand wildfires: Supreme Court to hear plea on January 4

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The Supreme Court will hear the plea filed by advocate Rituparn Uniyal, petitioner in person, seeking urgent steps to protect forests, wildlife and birds from wildfires in Uttarakhand. 

A bench headed by the Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian will hear the matter on January 4. The matter reached the Supreme Court last year in June 2019, when the petitioner sought some time to place additional documents/papers on record. The Court passed direction to list the matter thereafter. 

The petitioner has sought urgent steps to protect forests, wildlife and birds from wildfires in Uttarakhand, saying forest blazes have increased over the years and cause huge loss to the environment. It sought directions to the Centre, the Uttarakhand government and the principal chief conservator of forests in the state to make pre-fire arrangements and frame a policy to prevent forest fires.

The plea stated, “Forest fires in Uttarakhand have been a regular and historic feature. Every year, forest fires in Uttarakhand cause great loss to the forest ecosystem, diversity of flora and fauna and economic wealth. Forest fire is one of the major disasters in the forests of Uttarakhand. Despite a consistent history of forest fires, the ignorance, inactiveness, negligence and unreadiness of the respondents (Centre, state government and chief conservator of forests) have rendered a great loss to forests, wildlife and birds in Uttarakhand and thus, caused ecological imbalance”. 

“Uttarakhand has one of the prominent forest research centres, that is the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun. Surprisingly, the respondents have never consulted the institution for the reasons and solutions of devastating forest fires in the state. This clearly shows a lackadaisical approach of the respondents in tackling forest fires,” it said.

“Forests are socially and environmentally inter-linked with the people in the hilly areas, and play an important role in the economic welfare and development of the region,” it said.

It further said, “One of the major fallouts of the wildfire was the generation of ”black carbon”. Black carbon, which is created by the incomplete combustion of any bio-matter and fossil fuels coats the Himalayan glaciers in the region. This makes the glaciers attract more heat and melt faster causing floods in the plains.” 

Also Read: “The whole legal system is not yet available to blind lawyers, litigants”

The plea claimed, “All the animals have honour and dignity. Thus, in order to protect and promote greater welfare of animals, including avian and aquatic, animals are required to be conferred with the status of legal entity/legal person.” 

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