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DATA STORY: Forest-fires in India

  • Published
    4th Apr, 2022

Forest fires are a regular phenomenon in our country often observed during the fire season. A number of 37,059 fires were detected in 2018 using MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectro-radiometer) sensor data. Every year large areas of forests are affected by fires of varying intensity and extent. Based on the forest inventory records, 54.40% of forests in India are exposed to occasional fires, 7.49% to moderately frequent fires and 2.405 to high incidence levels while 35.71% of India’s forests have not yet been exposed to fires of any real significance. Precious forest resources including carbon locked in the biomass is lost due to forest fires every year, which adversely impact the flow of goods and services from forests. 

Satellite-based remote sensing technology and GIS tools have been effective in better prevention and management of fires through creation of early warning for fire-prone areas, monitoring fires on a real-time basis and estimation of burn scars.

Forest fires occur every year during summer due to natural and anthropogenic reasons, including accumulations of inflammable matter. Most of the forest fires in the country are ground fires in which low vegetation gets burnt. In 2017, the Forest Survey of India (FSI), an organisation under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, developed a completely automated satellite-based ‘forest fire monitoring and alert system’ for effective monitoring of forest fires at a national level.

This was equipped with Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership-Visible and Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite sensor-based information. The fire alerts are disseminated through SMS and email to field staff of state forest departments. 

The responsibility of forest-fire prevention and management lies primarily with the respective state and the ministry supports the efforts of the states and Union territories in preventing and controlling forest fire by providing financial assistance for various measures.

The measures include use of modern tools for extinguishing fire, use of communication and information technology, creation and maintenance of fire lines in forest areas, engagement of fire watchers, creation of water storage structures in forest areas, strengthening of the forest infrastructure, procurement of firefighting equipment, soil and moisture conservation work in high-risk areas, awareness creation, incentivising villages and communities for protection against forest fire under the centrally-sponsored Forest Fire Prevention and Management scheme.

This data story aims to present the picture about forest fires in India.

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