Old images shared as forest fires in Uttarakhand

A collage of images is circulating on social media with the claim it depicts the recent forest fires in Uttarakhand. “Uttarakhand is burning since 4 days but why isn’t anyone talking about our own devabhoomi burning? We prayed for Australia and Amazon, how can we be so ignorant about of own devabhoomi?” tweeted one Bhumika Dogra on May 26.

Facebook pages United Against Pseudosecular and Dehradun Wale posted this collage with the same claim.

Indian National Congress’s national convenor Hasiba Amin posted the same on May 27, 2020. The official handle of National Students Union of India (NSUI), the student’s wing Congress, too tweeted the same image. A tweet by Telugu actor Sai Dharam Tej which carried this collage garnered more than 400 retweets so far.

Fact-check

With the help of reverse image search on Google and Russian search engine Yandex, Alt News was able to trace back some of the images. We found that at least three out of seven images were old. In the course of this article, we will fact-check each image separately in no particular order.

Image 1

While this image is claimed to be a recent image from Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, it was traced back to Getty Images which credited the shot to photographer Anoop Negi. The caption of the image stated that the content in unverified. However, it is certain the image is at least eight years old as per the date of creation mentioned on Getty Images. “Shimla Hills are Burning – More Forest Fires.” reads its title.

Image 2

This image was traced back to an article on Hindustan Times which in turn credited it to news agency Press Trust of India (PTI). The article was published on May 3, 2016. “A major fire in the forests at Ahirikot in Srinagar, Uttarakhand on Monday,” reads the description of the image. Thus, it is more than four years old.

Image 3

We were able to trace this image back to a blog post by photographer Anoop Negi. The blog post is dated June 4, 2012. “More Fires in the Himalayas – Solan Rajgarh HIlls,” reads the title of the same image posted by Negi on the photo-sharing platform Flickr. According to the platform, the image was clicked on May 30, 2012.

Other old images shared

Several other old images are circulating on social media with the claim that they depict the recent forest fires in Uttarakhand. Chief conservator of forests at Uttarakhand forest department Parag Madhukar Dhakate said, “Uttarakhand Forest Department is using satellite information to douse the fire wherever reported. No massive and serious incident has been reported yet.”

While comparing last year’s forest fires in Uttarakhand with recent incidents, the state’s principal chief conservator of forest, Jai Raj, said, “Last year many forest fire incidents took place. Hence last year till this time, around 1600 hectares [of land] was burnt. In comparison to that, now it’s 81 hectares. According to this [data], the situation is in much better control.”

He further added, “The important thing to understand is that here the forest fire moves on the ground. They move on the surface. Some grass burns, some bushes burn, that is the kind of damage. Here, fire incidents where full trees get burnt, which we call a crown fire, such incident are close to none. Such forest fires take place in the United States, Canada and Australia.”

Furthermore, Dhakate tweeted a map of the state showing active forest fire points as of May 26, 2020, at 4:30 PM.

While we are unable to trace back the origin of four images in the collage, it is certain that three of the images were old and unrelated to the recent forest fires in Uttarakhand.

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