 Uttarakhand has witnessed over 1,000 incidents of forest fire over the last six months, including 45 on 5 April alone.

Meaning of Forest fire – A forest fire can be described as an unclosed freely spreading combustion, which consumes the natural fuels of a forest that consist of duff, grass, weeds, brush and trees.

Vulnerability of India’s Forests to Fires
 As of 2019, about 21.67% (7,12,249 sq km) of the country’s geographical area is identified as forest, according to the India State of Forest Report 2019 (ISFR) released by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), Dehradun.
 Tree cover makes up another 2.89% (95, 027 sq km).
 Based on previous fire incidents and records, forests of the Northeast and central India regions are the most vulnerable areas to forest fires.
 Forests in Assam, Mizoram and Tripura have been identified as ‘extremely prone’ to forest fire.
 States with large forest areas under the ‘very highly prone’ category include Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
 As per the 2020-2021 annual report of the MoEFCC, Western Maharashtra, Southern Chhattisgarh and areas of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, along with central Odisha, are turning into ‘extremely prone’ forest fire hotspots.
 Areas under the ‘highly prone’ and ‘moderately prone’ categories make up about 26.2% of the total forest cover — a whopping 1,72,374 sq km

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

 Many forest fires start from natural causes such as lightning which set trees on fire
 High atmospheric temperatures and dryness (low humidity) offer favourable circumstance for a fire to start. In dry season, friction leading to sparks by rolling stones in the mountainous areas may lead to forest fires
 In bamboo areas, forest fires may occur by the rubbing together of clumps of dry bamboos.
 Volcanic eruptions also lead to forest fires naturally
 In the past twenty years, the fire events in India have strongly been linked with the presence of El Nino conditions affecting the monsoon movements.

 More than 90% forest fires are caused by human beings, deliberately (for personal gains or rivalry) or merely due to negligence or just by accident. Forest fires sometimes originate due to accidental or unintentional reasons.
 Graziers and gatherers of various forest products starting small fires to obtain good grazing grass as well as to facilitate gathering of minor forest produce like flowers of Madhuca indica and leaves of Diospyros melanoxylon
 The centuries old practice of shifting cultivation (especially in the North-Eastern region of India and in parts of the States of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh).
 The use of fires by villagers to ward off wild animals
 For concealing the illicit felling – Smugglers and poachers many times start forest fires to hide the stumps of illicit felling. The poachers use forest fires for terrorizing wild animals and hunting too.
 Fires started accidentally by careless visitors to forests who discard cigarette butts.
 Burning farm residue- After a harvest, farmers set fire to their agricultural fields. Many times, when these fires are not put out completely, may spread to the adjoining forest areas

After the Intervention of NGT, the central government has framed National Action Plan on Forest Fire
 Forest Risk Zonation and mapping
 Prevention of forest fires
o Effective communication strategy for awareness generation
o Capacity building for communities
 Increasing the resilience of forests to fires
 Forest floor biomass management
 Forest fire preparedness
 Digitization of forest boundaries
o Promoting greater adoption of the Forest Fire Alert System
o Improving Ground based Detection
o Strengthening engagement with local communities
 Fire suppression through training of staff
 Post fire management
 Coordination with other agencies

The action plan should incorporate the following suggestions:
 The action plan should aim to strengthen forest fire prevention, preparedness and response mechanism across various levels within the forest department.
 It should be developed after having an interactive consultation process with a variety of mechanism across various levels within the forest department.
 A framework to strengthen skills and increase capacities to effectively address the menace of forest fires has to be provided to the forest department
 Forest personnel’s services needs to be upgraded to manage forest fire and reduce the risks.
 Better coordination between key stakeholders at different levels, especially at the local levels has to be ensured.
 High professionalism on forest fire management has to be promoted among the forest departments.
 Partnerships based on complementarities and mutual comparative advantages with other stake holders like NGOs and Community based organizations (CBOs)

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