- According to a joint report, Strengthening Forest Fire Management in India, released by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and World Bank, at least 60 per cent of districts in India are affected by forest fires each year, and the top 20 districts in terms of fire frequency are located mainly in the Northeast.
Highlights of the Report
- The findings of this study indicate that forest fires occur every year in almost every state in India.
- Out of all the affected areas, the top 20 districts in terms of area affected by fire from 2003 to 2016 account for 48 per cent of the total fire-affected area.
- The report highlights that central India, which has the highest forest cover in India after North-East, has the largest area affected by fire and accounts for 56% of burnt forest land during 2003-2016, followed by southern states and the North-East.
- Districts experiencing widespread and frequent forest fires include areas of dry and moist deciduous forest in the borderlands of Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, and Telangana.
- North-eastern states account for the biggest share of fire detections, with at least 55% of fire incidents reported during 2003-2016.
- In the Northeast, where most frequent fires are observed, they tend to be concentrated in a smaller area that is subject to repeat burning.
- The report also discusses policies on forest fire prevention and management (FFPM) at the national, state and local levels, underscoring the need for a comprehensive national policy and guidelines.
- It provides recommendations on five broad themes – policy, institutions and capacity, community engagement, technology, and data and information.
Some of the recommendations mentioned the report includes:
- Developing a National Forest Fire Prevention Management Plan as an open, consultative and a time-bound process
- The National FFPM Action Plan should delineate the roles and responsibilities of the MoEFCC, state forest departments, communities and disaster agencies.
- Need to support forest fire management through improved data, and research to fill critical knowledge gaps
- A national forest fire information database, bringing together satellite-based remote sensing data, and field-reported data, will be instrumental for assessing longer-term trends across states and regions and for planning fire prevention and response
- Defining a national research agenda for fire management and provision of funding opportunities for scientific research would help to establish formal cooperation between members of the research community and the forest department
- Institute standard management practices
- Adapt technology to local conditions
- Increased engagement with local communities to ensure that big fire is used in a responsible way
- Give communities a greater say in decision-making process
- With at least one in four people dependent on forests for their livelihood, India is losing at least ₹1,100 crore due to forest fires every year.
- India has committed to bringing 33% of its geographical area under forest cover by 2030, as part of its Nationally Determined Goals (NDC) and to increase its forest cover by 5 million hectares, as part of India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change.
- The findings are significant since preventing forest fires is crucial to meet Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) in order to limit global warming.
- Forest fires contribute to climate change by releasing carbon stored in trees, undergrowth and soil into the atmosphere.
- The report is significant in light of the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report that explores possibilities of keeping the global temperature rise within 1.5 degree Celsius to prevent catastrophic impacts due to unchecked temperature rise.
- The report calls for a national plan for the prevention of forest fire.