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Forest Fires In India

Forest Fires In India

Why in news?

  • Uttarakhand has witnessed over 1,000 incidents of a forest fire over the last six months, including 45 in the last 24 hours alone.
  • From Uttaranchal to Nagaland, Madhya Pradesh to Odisha, Indian forests have burned away in the last six months, releasing the carbon sequestered for years.

Forest Fires

  • Fires in forest are not unnatural. It has been a natural part of the ecosystem since origin of forest on this planet. Most of the fires are very useful and for good natural forest development and regeneration
  • Some of the benefits of forest fires can be:
    • Keeping the forests healthy,
    • Recycling nutrients,
    • Helping tree species regenerate,
    • Removing invasive weeds and pathogens,
    • Maintaining habitat for some wildlife.
  • As populations and demands on forest resources have grown, the cycle of fire has spun out of balance.
  • Forest fires have become an issue of global concern.
  • In many countries, wildfires are burning larger areas, and fire seasons are growing longer due to global warming.
  • Globally, forest fires release billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, while hundreds of thousands of people are believed to die due to illnesses caused by exposure to smoke from forest fires and other landscape fires.

Causes of forest fires

  • Forest fires can be caused by a number of natural causes, but officials say many major fires in India are triggered mainly by human activities.
  • Emerging studies link climate change to rising instances of fires globally, especially the massive fires of the Amazon forests in Brazil and in Australia in the last two years.
  • Fires of longer duration, increasing intensity, higher frequency and highly inflammable nature are all being linked to climate change.                  Forest Fires In India
  • In India, forest fires are most commonly reported during March and April, when the ground has large quantities of dry wood, logs, dead leaves, stumps, dry grass and weeds that can make forests easily go up in flames if there is a trigger.
  • Under natural circumstances, extreme heat and dryness, friction created by rubbing of branches with each other also have been known to initiate fire.

Impact of forest Fire

  • Fire severely affects the survival and establishment of many shrub species.
  • Soil heating due to fire changes its chemical, physical and microbial properties.
  • The increase in ammonium and nitrate concentrations in many ecosystems has also been reported as a result of fire incidences.              Forest Fires In India
  • Carbon sequestration potential gets adversely affected.
  • The most damaging impact of forest fire on ecosystem is very evident in the Himalayas, where hill existing between the heights of 1000 to 1800 meters are dominated by pine forests and seems to be more fire prone.
  • Degradation of water catchments areas resulting into loss of water.
  • Loss of wildlife habitat and depletion of wildlife.
  • Deteriorating Biological Environment.
  • Loss of natural vegetation and reduction of forest cover.
  • Soil erosion.
  • Adverse impact on Health System.
  • Socio-economic impact due to loss of valuable timber resources and associated cultural wealth.
  • Threat to Life and Property.
  • Reducing Tourism Values.

Government’s Initiative to Tackle Forest Fire

  • 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 plan also intends to substantially reduce the vulnerability of forests across diverse forest ecosystems in the country against fire hazards.
    • It also aims to enhance capabilities of forest personnel and institutions in fighting fires and swift recovery subsequent to fire incidents.
  • Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme:
    • The Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme (FPM) is the only centrally funded program specifically dedicated to assist the states in dealing with forest fires.
    • The FPM replaced the Intensification of Forest Management Scheme (IFMS) in 2017.
    • Funds allocated under the FPM are according to a center-state cost-sharing formula, with a 90:10 ratio of central to state funding in the Northeast and Western Himalayan regions and a 60:40 ratio for all other states.
    • It also provides the states to have the flexibility to direct a portion of the National Afforestation Programme (NAP) and Mission for Green India (GIM) funding toward forest fire work.
  • As part of the National Mission for Green Indiaunder India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change, the government has committed to increase forest and tree cover.
  • Under its Nationally Determined Contribution, India has committed to bringing 33% of its geographical area under forest cover and to create additional sinks of 2.5 billion to 3 billion tons worth of CO2 stored in its forests by 2030.                      Forest Fires In India

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