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About Forest Fires

Context:

The inquiry of bushfires that broke down in March 2023 by Goa Forest department has found that the fires were largely triggered by natural causes.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Forest Fires
  2. Advantages of forest fires
  3. Disadvantages of forest fires
  4. Forest Fire Vulnerability in India
  5. Ways to mitigate the risk of forest fires

About Forest Fires

A forest fire is an uncontrolled fire that occurs in areas with a significant amount of combustible vegetation, such as forests, grasslands, or shrublands.

Causes of Forest Fires

Forest fires are caused by Natural causes as well as Man-made or anthropogenic causes.

  • Natural causes such as lightning which set trees on fire. High atmospheric temperatures and low humidity offer favourable circumstance for a fire to start.
  • Man-made causes like flame, cigarette, electric spark or any source of ignition will also cause forest fires.
  • Traditionally Indian forests have been affected by fires. The problem has been aggravated with rising human and cattle population and the increase in demand for grazing, shifting cultivation and Forest products by individuals and communities.
  • High temperature, wind speed and direction, level of moisture in soil and atmosphere and duration of dry spells can intensify the forest fires.

Advantages of forest fires:

  • Some species of trees and plants have adapted to thrive in the aftermath of fires. For example, some pine trees rely on fires to open their cones and release seeds.
  • Forest fires can help to clear out dead wood, brush, and other debris, reducing the risk of future fires.
  • Fires can help to promote new growth and biodiversity by creating openings in the forest canopy that allow sunlight to reach the forest floor, stimulating the growth of new vegetation.

Disadvantages of forest fires:

  • Forest fires can destroy habitats and negatively impact biodiversity by killing animals and plants that are unable to escape the flames.
  • Smoke from fires can cause respiratory problems and other health issues for humans and animals.
  • Forest fires can damage or destroy homes, buildings, and other infrastructure, and can pose a significant threat to human safety.
  • The release of large amounts of greenhouse gases during forest fires can contribute to climate change.

India’s Initiatives to Tackle Forest Fires

  • National Action Plan on Forest Fires (NAPFF) 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 assist the states in dealing with forest fires.

Forest Fire Vulnerability in India

  • Forest fire season in India is from November to June
  • Council of Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) report notes a tenfold increase in forest fires over the past two decades in India
  • More than 62% of Indian states are prone to high-intensity forest fires according to CEEW report
  • Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Telangana, and Northeastern states are most prone to forest fires
  • Mizoram has the highest incidence of forest fires over the last two decades with 95% of its districts as forest fire hotspots
  • ISFR 2021 estimates over 36% of the country’s forest cover is prone to frequent forest fires, 6% is ‘very highly’ fire-prone, and almost 4% is ‘extremely’ prone
  • An FSI study found nearly 10.66% area under forests in India is ‘extremely’ to ‘very highly’ fire-prone.

Ways to mitigate the risk of forest fires:

  • Prevention: One of the most effective ways to mitigate forest fires is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. This can be done by creating fire breaks, clearing debris, and reducing the amount of flammable material in the forest.
  • Early Detection: Early detection of forest fires can help prevent them from spreading and causing more damage. This can be done by installing fire detection systems, using drones or satellite imagery, and training local communities to report fires quickly.
  • Fire Suppression: Fire suppression is a critical component of forest fire mitigation. This involves using firefighting equipment such as helicopters, water tanks, and fire retardants to put out fires.
  • Forest Management: Proper forest management practices can also help mitigate the risk of forest fires. This includes thinning out dense forests, creating fire-resistant vegetation, and reducing the amount of deadwood and other flammable materials in the forest.
  • Community Education: Educating local communities on the risks of forest fires and how to prevent them can also be effective in mitigating the risk of forest fires. This includes providing information on safe campfire practices, prohibiting the use of fireworks in fire-prone areas, and encouraging the use of fire-resistant building materials in areas at high risk of forest fires.

-Source: The Hindu


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