Forest Fire In India Rose Over Ten Times In Two Decades

Wildfire And Higher risk of Cancer

With forest fire on an increase across the world, what is the status of forest fires in India? A new study by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) shows that instances of forest fires in India have risen by over ten times in the past two decades.

The study, ‘Managing Forest Fires in A Changing Climate also details that more than 62 per cent of Indian states are prone to high-intensity forest fire events.

DISTRICTS

Further, the study stated that more than 30 per cent of Indian districts are vulnerable to extreme forest fires. Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur Mizoram Nagaland and Uttarakhand were extreme forest fire prone states across the last two decades (2000-19), the study noted.

Meanwhile, or Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, CEEW said, “Over the last decade, there has been a sharp rise in forest fires across the country. Some of these fires have had severe impacts on fragile ecosystems and local economies. We need to strengthen our predictive and forest fire alert systems further to limit the damage caused by forest fires. State and district-level government officials must also prioritise enhancing the capacity of frontline forest officials and forest-dependent communities to prevent forest fires. Scaling up trainings on creating effective forest fire lines and using drones, especially in known forest fire hotspots, could significantly reduce loss and damage.”

The CEEW study also found that over the last two decades, more than 89 per cent of total forest fire incidences have been recorded in districts that are traditionally drought-prone or have been witnessing weather swapping trend i.e flood-prone areas turning drought-prone and vice-versa. Kandhamal | Odisha), Sheopun (Madhya Pradesh), Udham Singh Nagar (Uttarakhand), and East Godavari (Andhra Pradesh are some of the forest fire hotspot districts that are also showing a swapping trend from flood to drought.

“Sharp increase in forest fires over the last two decades calls for a significant course correction in our approach to managing forest fires. The recent incident at Sariska forest reserve, fourth such incident in a week, shows why managing forest fires in a changing climate scenario is a national imperative. Going forward, we should recognise forest fires as a natural hazard and earmark more funds for mitigation-related activities. Restoration of forest lands and efficient mitigation of forest fires could also help protect the food systems and livelihoods of communities traditionally dependant on forests.” said Abinash Mohanty, Programme Lead, CEEW.

RECOMMENDATIONS
  • Develop a forest fire-only alert system that can provide real-time impact-based alerts.
  • Enhance adaptive capacity: Capacity-building initiatives targeted at district administrations and forest-dependent communities can avert the extent of loss and damage due to forest fires.
  • Provide clean air shelters: The state government/ state forest departments (SFDs) should repurpo se public buildings like government schools andcommunity halls by fitting them with clean air solutions – like air filters – to create clean air shelters for communities worst impacted by fires and smoke from forest fires.

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