Where have all the flowers gone?
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he worst of the fire on Mt Japfii is reportedly over, after five days of a raging inferno which threatened to spread and also engulf the Western Dziiku area. This after a relentless and laudable response from the state government, the youth of Southern Angami organisations as also the Western Angamis, and many concerned citizens and other teams.
The fire although not completely doused was brought under control on Monday, and as of this evening the Dzüku valley is supposedly out of danger.Over the past several years experienced foresters and scientists have observed that the pristine forests of Dzükou valley and the surrounding hills are being destroyed by frequent annual fires as thousands of tourists flock there throughout the year.
In the “heat” of the moment the tendency is to explain the cause of the fire as one of reckless and careless behavior on the path of trekkers.
But the frequency of the accident is a disturbing indicator of how the upcoming Naga youth are losing their affinity with nature. Our knowledge of the forest, nature and the seasons of the year are disappearing primarily because we have not sensitized our children to respect and keep close to heart the principals of nature and her seasons. John Muir a renowned conservationist said ‘the way into the universe is through the heart of a forest’. Our forefathers would know what he meant. They co existed with nature. They respected her. They did not exploit her resources greedily. Our sensitivity towards nature, alas has been replaced with insensitivity and indifference, breeding indiscipline and which in turn affects our level of awareness. To my mind, these are the factors that resulted in the accident born out of carelessness. Had the trekker(s) been aware and respected the season he/they would have realized this is winter, January-February, the driest season of the year. Moreover he/they would have (if his/their sensors were tuned into the weather pattern) that there has been no winter rain and the season is drier than previous years. Forest fires have also been frequently taking place and how they happen have also been highlighted several times in the media. But if every trekking group or individual thinks they are going to be careful, it is clear that just being careful is clearly not enough. Knowledge of the forest and how she behaves in relation to the seasons is vital for peaceful co-existence.
The extent of the damage will only be known after a proper scientific study of the area is carried out. IAF helicopters were pressed into service to douse water which has put out the flames but the fire continues to smoulder.
But the damage has been done. In the absence of a walking trail which should ideally also have fire lines in such pristine spots the entire mountain range lay exposed to the vulnerability and potential of a fire which could have massively got out of control.
Next time we might not be so lucky.
The fire would have affected wildlife, trees and plants, birds and their nests, even if some wildlife were to escape, food would be scarce, since even the fruit bearing trees would have been destroyed.
Hopefully the fire in the mountain this time will see some strict guidelines being issued to trekkers.
It would perhaps be best to obtain with the participation of the community a complete ban from trekking into Mt Japfü and its adjoining scorched areas and allow the forest to regenerate on its own, and to maintain a ban on the seasonal hunting of birds and animals. These play a crucial role in pollination, an impossible feat in the natural world which limits the human kind.
The forest cover on the mountains are crucial as they are watershed areas. Without it, the surrounding areas could well be staring into an ecological disaster in years to come.
The united front to put out the fire by the various youth organizations and the authorities drew out the best of the Naga identity … the response of the community in times of a crisis. This is evident in the decision of fifty youth volounteers from Kigwema who vowed not to come down the mountain till they had put out the fire.
Here is hoping the same degree of passion, to fight the fire in the mountain will be ignited, when it comes to putting into action plans to avert such incidents in the future.