FOREST FIRES IN INDIA (Syllabus GS Paper 3 – Env and Eco)

News-CRUX-10     19th March 2024        

Context: Forest fires have recently been raging in the Coonoor forest range in the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu.

Forest Fires in India

  • Seasonal Trend: Forest fires in India are most common from November to June, with a significant surge from February onwards as summer approaches, witnessing hundreds of thousands of fires annually.
  • Worst Months: April-May emerge as the peak months for forest fires nationwide, marked by a heightened frequency and severity across the country.
  • Extent of Vulnerability: The 2019 India State of Forest Report (ISFR) reveals that over 36% of India’s forest cover is prone to frequent fires, with approximately 4% classified as 'extremely prone' and 6% as 'very highly' fire prone.
  • Global Perspective: Globally, about 3% of the total forest area, roughly 98 million hectares, experienced fires in 2015, with a significant concentration in tropical regions.

Regional Distribution of Forest Fires

  • Vulnerable Ecosystems: Severe fires primarily afflict dry deciduous forests, with comparatively lower incidence in evergreen, semi-evergreen, and montane temperate forests.
  • Hotspots: Northeast India, Odisha, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Uttarakhand are identified as hotspots for forest fires, especially during the November to June period.
  • Recent Incidents: Notable instances include large bushfires in Goa in March 2023, prompting investigations into their origins, and a series of forest fires in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland-Manipur border, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat in 2021, encompassing wildlife sanctuaries.
  • Frequency of Forest Fires in South India: Forest fires in South India are not uncommon, especially in fire-prone areas like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  • Vulnerability of Southern Indian Forests: It characterized by evergreen or semi-evergreen vegetation, are comparatively less vulnerable to fires, as per the Forest Survey of India (FSI).
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