India, April 8 -- Around 2,000 such incidents since January in Uttarakhand's lower hills have put a spotlight on forest fires in the state, where 4,500-hectare forest area was damaged in infernos in 2016 alone. Experts blame pine trees, introduced by Britishers as part of their focus on commercial forestry, and inaction by successive governments for the failure in controlling the fires.

Pine needles are highly combustible and are the main triggers for the fires. Experts say before the colonial period, forests were a major source of sustenance for the locals, who sourced fodder, fuelwood, timber, fruits and construction material from them and had high stakes in protecting and conserving them collectively. The Britishers declared forests a...