Forest Fires

Forest fire management for positive sustainable forest growth


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Action Plan on Forest Fires

Mains level: environment conservation

forest fireContext

  • Forest fires are becoming more common and wildfires are destroying nearly twice as much tree cover globally as they did in 2001.

Why in news?

  • Climate change is driving more intense and widespread forest fire by fuelling more extreme heat and deepening drought, which dries out forests.

How to define forest fire?

  • A wildfire, forest fire, bushfire, wildland fire or rural fire is an unplanned, uncontrolled and unpredictable fire in an area of combustible vegetation starting in rural and urban areas.

What causes forest fires?

  • Human activities: 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.
  • Climate change: 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.
  • Season: In India, wildfires 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.
  • Natural reasons: Under natural circumstances, extreme heat and dryness, friction created by rubbing of branches with each other also have been known to initiate fire.

forest fire

Key fact

7.4 million acres of forest are getting burnt annually now an area roughly the size of Belgium.

What factors make forest fires a concern?

  • Carbon emission: They act as a sink, reservoir and source of carbon.
  • Livelihood loss: In India, with 1.70 lakh villages in close proximity to forests (Census 2011), the livelihood of several crores of people is dependent on fuelwood, bamboo, fodder, and small timber.
  • Destruction of animals’ habitat: Heat generated during the fire destroys animal habitats. Soil quality decreases with the alteration in their compositions.
  • Soil degradation: Soil moisture and fertility, too, is affected. Thus forests can shrink in size. The trees that survive fire often remain stunted and growth is severely affected.

Measures to curb Forest fires

1) National Action Plan on wild fires

  • The MoEFCC has prepared a National Action Plan on wild fire in 2018 after several rounds of consultation with all states and UTs.
  • The objective of this plan is to minimize forest fires by informing, enabling and empowering forest fringe communities and incentivizing them to work in tandem 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, enhance capabilities of forest personnel and institutions in fighting fires and swift recovery subsequent to fire incidents.

2) Forest Fire Prevention and Management scheme

  • The MoEFCC provides wildfire prevention and management measures under the Centrally Sponsored Forest Fire Prevention and Management (FPM) scheme.
  • The 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. By revamping the IFMS, the FPM has increased the amount dedicated for forest fire work.
  • Funds allocated under the FPM are according to the 90:10 ratio of central to state funding in the Northeast and Western Himalayan regions and 60:40 ratio for all other states.
  • Nodal officers for forest fire prevention and control have been appointed in each state.

forest fireWay forward

  • Awareness should be created among the villagers residing near the forests with respect to the long-term ill effects of forest fires.
  • Measures to prevent wildfires have to be taken before summer season when fires are prevalent.
  • Local people should be given skills to use online portals or mobile apps in order to monitor the forests for fires and inform forest authorities regarding the same.

Mains question

Q. Climate change is driving more intense and widespread forest fires by fueling more extreme heat and deepening drought. Why forest fires are cause of concern? Discuss our preparedness level for the same in the above context.

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