Forest fire rages in India: What is it? How fire-prone are India’s forests?
New Delhi, Apr 21: India has witnessed raging wildfires in the last few days, posing a threat to wildlife as the bushfires are shrinking animal habitats and causing food scarcity. There have been fires in Rajasthan' Sariska Tiger Reserve, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu, that has burnt thousands of forest area to ashes.
What is worrying is that wildfires are burning longer and hotter in places they have always occurred and are flaring up in unexpected places too.
One such example is from Uttarakhand, where video shared on social media showed the forest fire reaching the boys hostel of Veer Chandra Singh Garhwali Government Institute of Medical Science and Research in Srinagar.
So far, 117 fresh forest fire incidents were reported with Garhwal region accounting for 32 of them, Kumaon region 75 and wildlife areas 10.
So, what is wildfire or forest fire?
Forest fires are a regular phenomenon in our country often observed during summers. This forest fires spread over large forest area in the country cause immense loss to the environment and the property.
Forest fires decimate plants and animals, creates food scarcity, leaving the animals to wander in human habitat. It also destroys timber and non-timber forest produce.
How prone are Indian forests to fire?
According to Forest Survey of India, more than 36% of the country's forest cover has been estimated to be prone to frequent forest fires. Nearly 4 % of the country's forest cover is extremely prone to fire, whereas 6% of forest cover is found to be very highly fire prone.
Every year large areas of forests are affected by fires of varying intensity and extent.
Based on the forest inventory records, 54.40% of forests in India are exposed to occasional fires, 7.49% to moderately frequent fires and 2.40% to high incidence levels while 35.71% of India's forests have not yet been exposed to fires of any real significance.
Precious forest resources including carbon locked in the biomass is lost due to forest fires every year, which adversely impact the flow of goods and services from forests.
Hundreds of species birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and other micro organisms are wiped out in the fires apart from the killing of the micro flora. This can upset the natural composition of the whole forest itself.
Should we worry?
Forest fires are a common phenomenon across the globe during summer. What is worrying is that the increased number of forest fires that has caused livelihood loss for forest dwellers.
Reportedly, Forest Survey of India sent 3,86,031 forest fire alerts, which is more than double from the previous year's figure 154,032.
The forest fires can be eliminated by effective prevention and vigilance. Even to this day the most effective prevention method of fighting fires is the elaborate network of fire lines and continuous vigil by the protection staff during the crucial fire season.