Uttarakhand Forest Fires: What’s real and what’s fake

In the past few days, several social media posts have been going up on websites like Instagram, Facebook and twitter stating massive forest fires in Uttarakhand. These posts, while they do bring attention to a relevant issue are not completely true. Forests in Uttarakhand have been on fire for the last 5 days, but the level of damage is nowhere near as severe as made out on social media. Infact, with 81 hectares lost in the last 5 days, it is much less severe as compared to last year’s forest fires in Uttarakhand where nearly 1200 hectares were lost.

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It was also pointed out by several officials in the Uttarakhand Forest department that a lot of the pictures were not current, doctored or not even from the state of Uttarakhand. On speaking to the Print, Jai Raj, the Principal Chief Conservator of forests says “Social media is trying to make hype out of it. The pictures being shared on social media are of crown fires.- when the fire rises up the trees to the top, the photos are not from Uttarakhand.” he attests to this by pointing out that Uttarakhand has only had ground fires where the bushes and grass have been burnt

On Wednesday, the Uttarakhand forest department took to social media to expose the fake pictures. In a statement they said “ It has come to our notice that fake news of forest fire 2020 in Uttarakhand are being circulated on social media platform. After verification of such images, it has been found that either the images are really old or belong to some other place.” they uploaded some of the fake images to show people which ones were fake and asked for fake news to not be spread.

When it comes to Uttarakhand forest fires, it is a debilitating issue which grips Uttarakhand nearly every year, and social media giving it attention is important. However, a lot of the news about the severity of these forest fires are fake and spreading misinformation and panic. The reality is there have been some bush fires in Uttarakhand, which have destroyed much less than last year, but for unknown reasons, perhaps people being on edge and worried because of the coronavirus pandemic, the incident has been blown out of proportion.

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