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Forest Fire in India and Prevention

Published: 3rd May, 2024

Context

The frequency and intensity of forest fires are increasing day by day in India. The most recent victim is Uttarakhand, whose forests are witnessing massive fire.

1: Dimension- Frequency and Causes of Forest Fires in India

  • Forest Fire Season Duration: November to June.
  • Contributing Factors: Factors such as temperatures, precipitation, vegetation, and moisture contribute to the scale and frequency of these fires.
  • Factors contributing to the spread of forest fires: fuel load, oxygen, and temperature.
  • Humans’ role: Deliberate fires by locals (to promote growth of quality grass), carelessness, farming-related activities, agriculture and unchecked land-use patterns, concealing illegal tree cutting, or facilitating poaching and natural factors.
    • Friction between electricity cables and dry leaves, as well as lightning strikes, are additional triggers for wildfires.
  • Extent of Vulnerability: As per Forest Survey of India (FSI) reports, nearly 36 per cent of India’s forests are prone to frequent fires.
  • Seasonal Variation: Higher incidences of forest fires are typically reported in March, April, and May due to the abundance of dry biomass after winter and during the summer season.
  • Regional Vulnerability: Specific forest types, such as dry deciduous forests, are more prone to severe fires compared to evergreen, semi-evergreen, and montane temperate forests.
    • Approximately 4% of the country's forest cover is classified as extremely prone to fire, while 6% is considered very highly fire-prone, according to the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) in 2019.

2: Dimension-Impact on Forest Biodiversity

  • Loss and displacement of species: Direct loss of trees and wildlife, displacement and subsequent colonisation of unwanted species.
  • Forest fires can meddle with the life cycle of species and push many of the threatened and endemic species closer to extinction. By destroying the leaves and foliage, photosynthetic activity of surviving trees are reduced and thereby affect their growth.
  • Impact on recovery rate:The loss of keystone organisms in forest ecosystems, such as invertebrates, pollinators, and decomposers, can significantly slow the recovery rate of the forest.
  • Forest fires can also interfere with the reproduction and propagation of certain plants and animals.

3: Dimension- Management or Prevention of Forest Fire

  • Methods Identified by MoEFCC:
    • Early Detection: Construction of watch towers for early detection and deployment of fire watchers.
    • Community Involvement: Engaging local communities in fire prevention and control efforts.
    • Creation of Fire Lines: Establishing and maintaining fire lines to prevent the spread of fires.
  • Types of Fire Lines Recognized by National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA):
    • Kachha Fire Lines: These are covered fire lines where undergrowth and shrubs are cleared while retaining trees to reduce fuel load.
    • Pucca Fire Lines: Open fire lines created by clear-cutting areas to separate forest compartments or blocks and control potential fire spread.
    • Other methods: Controlled burning, fire terracing, counter fire, rock walls, and others.

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