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Combating forest fires in Uttarakhand

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Disaster management


Source: DTE

 Context: The chir pine belt of Uttarakhand, India, faces significant forest fire challenges.


What is Chir Pine Belt?

It refers to an area characterized by the dominance of chir pine trees (Pinus roxburghii). It is found primarily in the state of Uttarakhand. The high presence of chir pine trees in this belt also contributes to the susceptibility to forest fires in the area.


About the chir pine:

It is a species of pine tree that is native to the Himalayan region. It is a fast-growing evergreen tree and forms dense forests in the sub-tropical and temperate regions of Uttarakhand.


Factors contributing to forest fire challenges in the Chir Pine Belt of Uttarakhand:

High forest densityUttarakhand accounts for 1.6 per cent of India’s total geographical area. But in terms of forest cover, the state accounts for 45 per cent, in contrast to national forest cover of just 21.67 per cent. 
High presence of pine treesChir pine dominates the forest composition in the region. Pine trees are rich in organic polymers, making them vulnerable to forest fires.
Dry biomass Pine needles and other plant-based litter create fuel for fires. Dry biomass increases the risk of fire outbreaks.
Vulnerability of narrow-leaved speciesThe forest ecosystem in the region is dominated by narrow-leaved species like Pinus, Picea, and Abies. These species are susceptible to fires when exposed to low temperatures and humidity.
Human-made firesTimber smugglers often set intentional fires to divert attention and facilitate illegal activities. Developmental activities and unchecked land-use patterns contribute to human-induced fire hazards.
Climate conditionsUttarakhand experiences low rainfall and high temperatures. The ample availability of dry biomass during the summer season increases fire risks. Also, Strong winds contribute to the rapid spread of fires across the forests.


Measures to Combat Forest Fires in the Chir Pine Belt of Uttarakhand:

Plantation of suitable broad-leaved speciesIntroduce species like oak and rhododendron with lower fire susceptibility. Diversify the forest composition and reduce the overall fire risk.
Construction of watch towers for early detectionInstall watch towers to detect forest fires at an early stage. Facilitate prompt response and intervention to control fire incidents.
Deployment of fire watchersAssign personnel as fire watchers in vulnerable areas. Regular surveillance to detect and report fires promptly.
Creation and maintenance of fire linesClear vegetation creates fire lines and fire breaks as barriers.
Use of remote sensing technology and satellite dataUtilize technology to detect active forest fires from space.  Enable early identification and timely response to fire incidents.
Exclusive recruitment of forest fire-fighting staffEmploy trained personnel equipped with modern firefighting technologies. Ensure specialized teams are available for fire suppression.
Joint Forest Management (JFM), Van panchayats, and communicationPromote community involvement and cooperation in forest management. Utilize electronic, social media, radio, and television for awareness. Raise awareness and encourage responsible forest practices.


National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has suggested measures for fire control in Himalayan regions such as Early detection and reporting; Fireline creation; Community involvement; Training and capacity building; Use of technology and Firefighting teams.


A few measures taken are:

National Policy on Forest Fire (finalized by the government); National Plan for forest fire management; National Forest Fire Danger Rating System; Firefighting tools and machinery (e.g. Fire Beaters, Pulaskis Tools, Forest Fire Showel, etc.); Forest Fire Prevention & Management Scheme (FFPMS, 2017)



Addressing and mitigating forest fires in the Himalayan region requires a comprehensive approach that includes early detection, community involvement, capacity building, technology utilization, and effective collaboration between various stakeholders. By implementing these measures, the risk and impact of forest fires can be significantly reduced, protecting the invaluable biodiversity and ecological balance of the region.


For The reason behind the global wildfires and Measures to control them: Click Here


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Forest Fires


Practice Questions

Enumerate the causes for the rising instances of forest fires in India. What measures are needed to mitigate the adverse impacts of forest fires? (250 Words)