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19th June 2024 (10 Topics)

Forest Fire and Management

Context

Himachal Pradesh (H.P.) is currently grappling with a severe spate of forest fires, with 1,684 incidents reported, affecting 17,471 hectares of forest land. These fires pose significant threats to wildlife and contribute to environmental degradation in the region.

Causes of Forest Fires

  • Forest fires in Himachal Pradesh primarily occur during the pre-monsoon summer, exacerbated by moisture stress after snowmelt depletion.
  • Human activities such as unattended campfires and discarded cigarettes also contribute to the outbreak of fires.
  • Faulty forestry practices and a utilitarian approach to forest management further exacerbate the problem.

Impact on Environment and Climate

  • Forest fires in the Himalayas
    • release pollutants like black carbon
    • Accelerates glacier melt
    • negatively impacts regional climate patterns
  • Historical transformations in Himalayan forests, driven by commercial interests, have reduced ecological resilience, making them more susceptible to fires.

Historical Transformation of Himalayan Forests

  • Over the past two centuries, Himalayan forests have undergone significant transformations due to colonial-era forestry policies focused on commercial exploitation.
  • The shift from Banj oak to commercially valuable Chir pine has altered forest ecosystems, affecting water retention and local livelihoods dependent on forest resources.
Challenges and Recommendations
  • Challenges:
    • Lack of community participation in forest management despite constitutional provisions.
    • Curtailment of traditional forest rights, hindering local communities' ability to respond effectively to forest fires.
    • Easy forest diversion for large-scale development projects like hydroelectricity and road infrastructure.
  • Recommendations:
    • Democratize forest management to involve local communities in decision-making processes.
    • Restore traditional forest rights to enable effective forest protection and management.
    • Implement mixed forestry approaches, reducing monoculture of vulnerable Chir pine.
    • Integrate scientific knowledge with traditional practices for sustainable forest management.
    • Establish local environmental services and infrastructure like check dams to revive water springs and mitigate fire risks.

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