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Indian Forests Are Burning: Many States Report Forest Fires As Temperatures Soar

A significant rise has been observed in the incidence of forest fires in India, studies suggest.

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Climate Change
3 min read
Indian Forests Are Burning: Many States Report Forest Fires As Temperatures Soar
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A significant rise has been observed in the incidence of forest fires in India, several studies suggest. There were 136,604 fire points in the country from 1 January to 31 March 2022, which charred vast areas of forested land, as per the Forest Survey of India (FSI).

A study released by the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW) on Thursday, 8 April, found that there had been a ten-fold increase in forest fires in the past two decades. It also said that more than 62 percent of Indian states were prone to high-intensity forest fires.

The study titled, 'Managing Forest Fires in a Changing Climate,' found that while there were 3,082 forest fires across states in 2000, the number went up to almost 30,947 in 2019.

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According to a 2018 report jointly prepared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change (MoEFCC) and the World Bank, India loses at least Rs 1,100 crore due to forest fires every year.

In the last month alone, significant forest fires were reported in Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan – notably from Sariska Tiger Reserve – among others.

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Over 10k Incidents of Forest Fires in One Month in Chhattisgarh

According to Chhattisgarh's forest department, a total of 11,595 incidents of forest fires were reported in March 2022, reported Mongabay.

As per Indian Forest Survey data, there were 14,487 cases of forest fires in Chhattisgarh in March 2022. On March 31 alone, 1,571 active forest fires were reported in Chhattisgarh.

Chhattisgarh Agriculture Minister Rabindra Chaubey had said, "It is difficult to comment on how much fire has spread in which of the forest areas in the state, while sitting in the state capital… as far as the damages are concerned, the government is taking all steps to find solutions."

Sarguja and Sukma are among the regions that were severely affected by the disaster.

Forest Fires in Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Odisha

Wildfire had also gripped the forests of the core area of Palamu Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Latehar, Jharkhand, India Today reported.

Instances of wildfire were reported in key protected areas of Similipal and Karlapat in Odisha in March and April. Fires were also reported in Chitrakonda, Rengali, Gudari, Mohana, Talcher, and other forests in the state.

Around 28,000 fires were reported in March in Madhya Pradesh across 77,000 sq km of forests in the state. Nearly 16% of these were major fires, including the one in the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve.

In the last four days, from April 8 to 11, 2,155 fresh cases of forest fires were reported, according to The Times of India.

Maharashtra Reported 856 Forest Fires Within 4 Days

As many as 856 forest fires were reported in a span of four days from April 8 to 11 in Maharashtra, with the latest incident reported in Ambazari Biodiversity Park on Sunday, as per The Times of India.

In Melghat Tiger Reserve, 850 hectares of forest was razed to the ground due to multiple forest fires in just two months, February and March.

In Pune, thirty hectares of land was gutted in forest fires till 8 April, forest officials were quoted as saying by The Times of India.

Over a Thousand Fires Across Karnataka

Over 1,000 instances of forest fires have been reported across Karnataka, Forest Survey of India data shows.

The southern state has lost around 65 sq km of moderately dense forests in two years, according to the 2021 India State of Forests Report (ISFR) report.

The IFSR report attributes the decline in moderately dense forests to activities like shifting cultivation, felling of trees, and natural calamities, among other factors.

Forest Fires in the Hills of Uttarakhand

Forest fire incidents in Uttarakhand have doubled in the past few days, as per a TOI report.

As many as 154 wildfires were reported in Uttarakhand between 15 February and 31 March. The figure nearly doubled in April, with 313 fires being recorded till 10 April, as per the report

The unusually high temperatures, as the country witnessed its hottest March in 122 years, have also contributed to the increased incidence of forest fires.

In Kumaon, 209.64 acres of land was burnt down by the flames, while 134.6 acres of land was destroyed in Garhwal.

Fire in Sariska Tiger Reserve

On March 27, the news of a forest fire in the northwest part of the country came to the fore.

Over 400 people had worked for six days to control the forest fire that had broken out at the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan on 27 March.

The National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF), the State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF), and the Indian Air Force (IAF) were brought in to douse the inferno that had spread over more than 20 km of land.

(With inputs from Mongabay, India Today, and The Times of India.)

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Topics:  Forest Fires 

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