Forest fires, all BPC’s fault, DoF

The Forest Department (DoF) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) have conclusively attributed the reason for Forest fires, human and wildlife electrocution reported in various parts of the country till now, to the negligence of Bhutan Power Cooperation (BPC) and its failure for timely maintenance of the transmission lines and poles.

The department highlighted several mishaps which included the recent forest fires in Pamtsho and Khasadrapchu in Thimphu dzongkhag, the electrocution of a male tusker in Nganglam in Pemagatshel and two incidences of human electrocution in Trongsa and Zhemgang.

The recent forest fire in Khasadrapchu on 18 March was reported to have occurred due to disarray in erecting transmission lines which caused an electric short circuit.

The said fire was contained with minimum damages of less than an acre but it stood to destroy acres of forest coverage and five houses which faced immediate danger as they were in direct line of the fire.

In a similar incident faulty power transmission lines caused a forest fire in Pamtsho under Thimphu earlier this month and another forest fire was reported in Memelakha on 15 February this year with similar causes.

The resident in Pamtsho had written a complaint letter and also taken the BPC officials to the site of the power lines and poles which were on the verge of collapse about six months ago.

“We requested for immediate maintenance of the power lines and poles to BPC for more than six months now,” one of the residents in Pamtsho, Tshering Tobgay said. He added that the electric poles are about to topple which would result in dangerous mishaps to the properties and people residing in the area.

He also shared that the power lines are sagging from the poles due to snowfall and it is still visible. “BPC is not doing anything even if it calls for immediate action,” he said. In other incident a 65-year-old man died on the spot when he was electrocuted in Wangling under Langthel Gewog in Trongsa. The incident occurred when he was felling a tree near some overhead transmission lines.

Chief Forestry Officer, Phento Tshering said if the fire escapes due to defective power lines and electrical short circuits the company shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable for fines and penalty.

He said that the recent forest fire, wildlife and human electrocution occurred due to defective power lines.

They will be thoroughly investigated and the company will have to pay penalty of Nu 10,000 with compensation on commercial rate of royalty base and girth classes for damages plus the suppression cost that includes the total manpower and vehicles involved.

 

“The concerned officials will ascertain the damages caused and the company will have to compensate,” Phento Tshering said.

However the BPC officials were not available to comment on this issue.

Reports maintained by FFMS reflect about 6994.6 acres of forest consumed by 17 incidents of forest fire throughout the country with the first fire incident occurring at Depsi in Thimphu which destroyed 7 acres.

Thimphu dzongkhag experienced maximum forest fires at five incidents followed by three in Mongar.

Dzongkhags such as Punakha, Chukha, Dagana, Wangduephodrang, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse and Bumthang experienced at least one forest fire incident each.

The biggest forest fire as of now occurred in Phobjikha in Wangduephodrang that destroyed 6,000 acres at the end of January this year while a fire mishap on 23 January damaged 0.5 acres of forest.

The 17 incidences of forest fire on an average damaged atleast 411 acres of forest each.

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