Is It Time for India to Consider a National Wildfire Policy Framework?

Map Showing Wildfires in India
Map depicting wildfires in India

Fires destroy lives, and at times generations. The devastating fires in Australia – 2019, California – 2018, and Amazon fires, Brazil 2019 have raised the ears of experts worldwide. In such fires, millions of hectares forests and grassland are destroyed. Apart from this, several species become extinct or reach the verge of extinction in such deadly wildfires.

Hard to overcome forest fires

How to overcome or minimise wildfires has brought global attention. Therefore for the survival of human beings and other species preservation of forest is crucial. A large number of people directly depend on forests for fuel, shelter, and income. Forests play a vital role in climate regulation, as well.

Wildfires destroy Indian forest

India is miles away from Australia or Brazil, but wildfires in India have done large-scale damage. In February 2018 wildfires occurred at Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, an estimated 4,800 hectares of forest cover was lost.

Air Force choppers douse the fire

It took five days to douse the fire at Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Indian Air Force choppers worked round the clock in overcoming the deadly blaze. As per the Indian State of Forest Report 2019, over 30,000 incidents of forest fires were reported in India in 2019.

Uttarakhand on fire

Natural calamities are continuing in 2020. The entire country is facing the COVID-19 crisis and observing nationwide lockdown. With the rise in temperature Uttarakhand has been burning for the past few days. The state has reported 46 forest fires.

Massive loss of forest land

This deadly fire will affect more than 51.34 hectares of forest land of Uttarakhand. Life of several wildlife species living in the forests is in danger. While 21 wildfires have been witnessed in the Kumaon region. In the Garhwal region, 16 incidents of forest fires have been reported. Nine events of forest fires occurred at reserve forest areas. The fire has caused a tremendous loss of flora and fauna.

Major forest fire in 2016

Another major inferno in Uttarakhand forests took place in 2016. Some experts said that low rainfall, climate warming, El Nino, while many were pointing fingers towards miscreants behind that fire. The forest department estimated that over 3,000 hectares of forest area was affected. Massive loss of wildlife also occurred in the 2016 Uttarakhand forest fire.

FSI reveals 3,971 fire alerts

The Forest Survey of India (FSI) has revealed 3,971 fire alerts all over the country in the past one week via both satellites MODIS and SNPP-VIIRS. The FSI has dispatched fire alerts to all the states. Out of 3,971 fire alerts, Chhattisgarh has received the maximum number of alerts, 764. Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra got 618 and 483 fire alerts. As the mercury is rising, so the chances of fire forests have increased.

21% of forest area fire-prone in India

In India, over 36 per cent of forest cover (657,000 sq km area) is susceptible to forest fires. In comparison, 10 per cent of forest cover in the country is highly vulnerable as reported by Forest Survey of India (FSI). The reports also make it clear that about 21 per cent forest cover of India comes under the category of extremely fire-prone forest areas.

Deciduous forests catch fire easily

Dry deciduous forests get low rainfall and face a long duration of dry months. These forests’ soil lack nutrients. Therefore deciduous forest in the country is always at risk to catch fire compared to others. These areas are in several states like- Odisha, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and some southern states.

More than 40 per cent of Uttar Pradesh forests are prone to fire. Among the major forests’ zones of the Vindhya region, Bundelkhand and Terai, the subtropical forests of the Terai region (which lies alongside the Nepal border) is the most fire-prone one,” said Ramesh Kumar Pandey, chief conservator of forests of Uttar Pradesh.

Forest fire on the rise in India

The forest fire has been increasing in the country; the Union government has not been addressing this issue. As per the FSI report, about 37.5% of forest cover in Uttar Pradesh has come between moderately or extremely fire-prone.

The Centre has decreased its fund in averting the forest fire in the country. The government released Rs 43.85 crore in 2015, and it was reduced to Rs 34.56 crore in 2017.

Source: The Indian State of Forest Report – 2017.

India faces a massive loss of Rs 1,176 crore every year due to forest fire.

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