The wildfire in the famed Dzukou Valley on Nagaland-Manipur border continued for the ninth day on Wednesday, even as the Indian Air Force (IAF), Army, NDRF, state agencies and locals continue their efforts to douse the fire.
The officials of IAF, NDRF and Nagaland government, however, are hopeful of controlling the inferno soon even though it had devastated a considerable part of the pristine area, comprising small hillocks and picturesque greenery.
The Nagaland government has requested the Union Home Ministry to send additional teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to join the ongoing fight to control wildfire in Dzukou Valley.
IAF spokesperson Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh told IANS that following a requisition by the Nagaland government, the Eastern Air Command in Shillong since had since Friday deployed four Mi-17V5 helicopters equipped with Bambi buckets to check the wildfire.
Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority OSD Johnny Ruangmei told IANS that the Indian Army, IAF, paramilitary forces, state authorities, along with hundreds of volunteers and locals, continued their battle against the wildfire in the Dzukou Valley.
“The wildfire has been doused in most areas but gusty winds have taken the blaze to newer areas. We expect to tame the blaze fully in the next two days,” said Ruangmei, who is supervising the operation round-the-clock.
An Assistant Sub-Inspector of the NDRF deployed to tackle the fire was found dead in his tent on Tuesday in northern Manipur’s Senapati district bordering Nagaland.
Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh tweeted on Wednesday: “My heartfelt condolences to the family of Assistant Sub-Inspector N. Binoy Meetei of @NDRFHQ, who died inside one of the base camps set up on the way to Dzukou to douse the wildfire. His works and sacrifice for the state will ever remain as an inspiration to his fellow citizens.”
Forest officials of Nagaland and Manipur said that they are yet to assess how much vegetation, flora and fauna have been destroyed due to the wildfire since December 29.
According to the officials, the inferno has destroyed much of the forest, seasonal flowers, flora and fauna and harmed the rich biodiversity of the valley, which is also a famous trekking site.
According to Kohima district Deputy Commissioner Mohammed Ali Shihab, eight helicopters equipped with Bambi buckets, including four from the IAF and two from the Army, continued their operations to control the wildfire.
“As per the IAF assessment, the fire is well within control and the forces might be able to achieve 100 per cent success soon. Within a day or two, the fire situation would be fully under control,” the Deputy Commissioner said after a review meeting.
The Dzukou valley, 30 km from Kohima, is also a sanctuary for the endangered Blyth’s tragopan – Nagaland’s state bird – and other species of birds and animals.
The iconic valley, situated at an altitude of 2,452 metres above the sea level, is a popular tourist spot and also famous for its seasonal flowers and biodiversity.
Often caught in a boundary dispute between Manipur and Nagaland, it also has been prone to wildfires.
Members of the Southern Angami Youth Organisation (SAYO), which runs an adventure-based conservation programme, tackled such fires in many cases earlier. In 2006, the wildfire affected a 20-km stretch of the southern part of the valley.