The Indian Army, Indian Air Force (IAF), paramilitary forces, state authorities, along with hundreds of volunteers and locals, continued their battle against the wildfire in the famous Dzukou Valley on the Nagaland and Manipur borders for the eighth day as the blaze raged on, officials said.
However, officials said they were hopeful of controlling it soon even it had devastated a considerable part of the pristine area.
An Assistant Sub-Inspector of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), deployed to tackle the fire, was found martyred in his tent on Tuesday in northern Manipur’s Senapati district bordering Nagaland.
Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, in a tweet, said : “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.”
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 operation to control the wildfire.
“A total of 56 sorties with 75, 000 litres of water have been sprayed by the helicopters on the inferno during the past few days. As per the IAF assessment, the fire was well within control and they might be able to achieve 100 per cent by Wednesday. Within a day or two, the fire situation would be fully under control,” the Deputy Commissioner said after a review meeting.
Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, in a tweet, said: “Made an aerial survey of the latest forest fire situation at Dzukou valley today (Tuesday). Seeing the tremendous joint efforts by all concerned to tackle the situation, I am hopeful that the fire will soon be doused.”
“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.”
Forest officials of the two states said that the inferno, which began on December 29, has destroyed much of the forest, seasonal flowers, flora and fauna and harmed the rich biodiversity of the valley, which is a globally famous trekking site too.
Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority OSD, Johnny Ruangmei said on Tuesday over phone from Kohima that the wildfire is more than 80 per cent controlled and it was expected to tame the blaze fully in the next two days.
The Dzukou valley, 30 km from Kohima, also is 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 run 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.