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Forest Fires:

GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered: Conservation related issues.

 

Context:

Forest fires in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have scorched numerous hectares of greenery.

 

How’s the situation?

In April, Himachal reported about 750 forest fires, while Uttarakhand reported more than 1,500.

 

Why are Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh vulnerable to forest Fires?

Except for periods of precipitation in monsoon and winter, the forests remain vulnerable to wildfires.

  • In the summer season, forest fires occur frequently in the low and middle hills of the state, where forests of Chir Pine are common.
  • During the post-monsoon season and in winters, forest fires are also reported in higher areas, including parts of Shimla, Kullu, Chamba, Kangra and Mandi districts, where they usually occur in grasslands.

 

How have other places prone to forest fires fared so far?

Apart from Himachal and Uttarakhand, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tripura, Mizoram and Odisha report frequent forest fires annually.

 

Causes of the fire:

Natural causes such as lightning or rubbing of dry bamboos with each other can sometimes result in fires, but forest officials maintain that almost all forest fires can be attributed to human factors.

  • Setting up a temporary hearth to cook food by the herdsman and minor forest produce gatherer may leave behind a smouldering fire, it can develop into a forest fire.
  • Also, when people burn their fields to clear them of stubble, dry grass or undergrowth, the fire sometimes spreads to the adjoining forest.
  • A spark can also be produced when dry pine needles or leaves fall on an electric pole.

 

Other causes:

  1. Lack of soil moisture.
  2. Rainfall deficiency.
  3. Natural causes such as lightning, high atmospheric temperatures and low humidity.

 

 

What is done to prevent and control forest fires?

To prevent and control forest fires the following can be done:

  1. Forecasting fire-prone days using meteorological data.
  2. Clearing camping sites of dried biomass.
  3. Early burning of dry litter on the forest floor.
  4. Growing strips of fire-hardy plant species within the forest.
  5. Creating fire lines in the forests are some of the methods to prevent fires (fire lines are strips in the forest kept clear of vegetation to prevent the fire from spreading).b

 

What efforts are being taken to protect forests from fire?

Since 2004, the FSI developed the Forest Fire Alert System to monitor forest fires in real time.

Real-time fire information from identified fire hotspots is gathered using MODIS sensors (1km by 1km grid) and electronically transmitted to FSI.

National Action Plan on Forest Fires (NAPFF): It was launched in 2018 to minimise forest fires by informing, enabling and empowering forest fringe communities and incentivising them to work with the State Forest Departments.

The Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme (FPM) is the only centrally funded program specifically dedicated to assisting the states in dealing with forest fires.

 

Insta Curious:

Did you know that according to the Forest Survey of India, nearly 36 per cent of India’s forests are prone to frequent fires?

 

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Forest cover in Himachal Pradesh.
  2. Causes of forest fire.
  3. Measures to prevent and control wildfire.
  4. Damages done by forest fires.
  5. Tree species found in Himachal.

 Mains Link:

Forest fires are a recurrent annual phenomenon in the state. Discuss.

Sources: Indian Express