Forest Fires: Causes, Effects, and Prevention - Daily Current Affair Article

Why in the News?

From the beginning of 2021, series of forest fires were seen in wildlife sanctuaries in Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland-Manipur border, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat.

Introduction

  • Forest fires is made up of a combination of two important words. Both these words Forest and fire are have complete sence in their own right. Both these elements have a profound impact on the socio-economic aspects of human life.
  • When one element in both causes or destroys the other element, in that case, nature and dependent organism's subsistence becomes difficult. Forest fires badly affect the lives of all the creatures associated with them.
  • There have been more than 1,000 incidents of forest fire in Uttarakhand in the last six months. Since the beginning of 2021, there have been a large number of forest cases in wildlife sanctuaries in Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland-Manipur border, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat.
  • In the April-May wildfires occur in different parts of the country. But in Uttarakhand, Forest fires has been more than usual and it has also occurred during winter; Due to weak monsoon locally, dry soil is being seen as one of the reasons.

Where Forest fires occurs?

  • In January, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh (Kullu Valley) and Nagaland-Manipur border (Dajukau Valley) have been affected by Forest fires for a long time.
  • A major fire broke out in Odisha's Simlipal National Park between late February and early March.
  • Forest fire incidents are occurs on the ,sanctuaries for the Asiatic Lion and Great Indian Bustard , Bandhavgarh Forest Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

Vulnerability of Indian forests towards Forest fires

  • According to the India State of Forest Report 2019 (ISFR) released by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Dehradun, till 2019, about 21.67% (7,12,249 sq km) of the country's geographical area was under forest cover.
  • FSI has stated that based on the incidents of past fires and recorded incidents, forest fires are the weakest region in the forests of Northeast and Central India.
  • The forests of Assam, Mizoram, and Tripura have been identified as the 'very high prone' category of the forest. States with large forest areas under the category of 'highly prone' include Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • According to MoEFCC, areas of Maharashtra, South Chhattisgarh and Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh, Central Odisha are turning into highly prone 'forest fire hotspots.
  • Areas under 'highly prone' and 'moderate prone' categories constitute about 26.2% of the total forest cover - 1,72,374 sq km.

Reasons of Forest Fires

  • Forest fires can be caused by many natural causes, according to the study, many major fires in India start mainly from human activities. At present, the incidence of forestry is continuously increasing in the whole world, especially in Brazil and Australia, for which climate change can be considered responsible.
  • In India, Forest fires is most commonly recorded during March and April, when the ground contains large amounts of dry wood, logs, dead leaves, stumps, hay, and weeds. Under natural conditions, excessive heat, and dryness, the friction created by rubbing branches with each other is also known to start a fire.
  • In Uttarakhand, soil moisture deficiency is also being seen as an important factor. In two consecutive monsoon seasons (2019 and 2020), there has been a deficit of rainfall at seasonal averages of 18% and 20% respectively.
  • According to forest officials the maximum number of fires in India are man-made. Even a small spark from the butt of a cigarette, or a carelessly lit matchstick fire can turn into a terrible forest fire.

Forest fires are the result of scattering in the relationship between forest and people: -

  • After the abolition of forest rights of forest-based societies, no such social system has been created which can take the responsibility of protecting forests from fire and other losses. The lack of interest of the general public and community towards the conservation of forests has made the forests more vulnerable.
  • Now the approach of marketization of forests and their products has been done. During the colonial period, when the standards of development were changing all over the world, including Europe, forests and natural resources were the most pressures. The community continued to claim rights from the forests, but could never inspire the duty towards the forests.
  • Forest department can only take care of forests and professional management. The Forest Department is not able to take charge of the protection and protection of forests. Protection of forests is also not possible without community involvement and interest.

Effects of forest Fires

  • The biodiversity of forests and the entire ecosystem have been affected due to deforestation. Along with tree plants in the forest, small grasses and shrubs are also destroyed. Due to which the incidence of soil erosion, landslide, and rapid flooding is increasing.
  • Forest firewood also burns, which causes economic damage.
  • The families and communities of the tribal class depend on the forests and their social and economic condition is affected by forest. In India, the livelihood of the people of about 1.70 lakh villages is dependent on fuel, bamboo, fodder, and small wood.
  • Smoke and various types of poisonous gases emanating from forest fires adversely affect the health of human beings and all beings. According to scientists, the gases released from this fire, whose effect lasts for 3 years in the atmosphere, can cause fatal diseases like cancer. Thus it causes environmental pollution.
  • Forests play an important role in mitigation and adaptation to climate change. They serve as a sink, reservoir, and source of carbon. A healthy forest reserves and accumulates more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem.
  • Forest fires can have many adverse effects on forest cover, soil, tree growth, vegetation, and overall flora and fauna. Due to ash in several hectares of forest from fire, this place becomes unfit for any vegetative growth.

Efforts made by the government to stop a forest fire

  • Since 2004, FSI has developed a forest fire alert system to monitor wildfires in real-time. In its upgraded version launched in January 2019, the system now uses satellite information collected from NASA and ISRO.
  • Action plan for prevention of forest has been given by the Center to about 21 states. Out of these, the action plan submitted by Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh has been approved by the Center.
  • In Para 11.2 of the 21st draft of the Earth Conference in Rio in 1992, various problems arising from forest fires were discussed in detail.

The conclusion

The reason for the increase in the intensity of forest fire is both natural and human and it is also true that today it has taken the form of a major disaster. There is social, economic, and environmental imbalance due to the continuous increase of forests in India and the world. To balance this imbalance, meaningful steps should be taken for this problem by increasing community participation in forests.

General Studies Paper 3
  • Environment and Ecology
  • Protection, environmental pollution, and degradation, assessment of environmental impact.

Mains Question:-

  • There is social, economic, and environmental imbalance due to the continuous increase of forest fires in India as well as in the world. Do you agree that public apathy towards forests is the most responsible for this problem?