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Forest fires threatening Odisha’s flora and fauna

Topics Covered:

  1. Disaster and disaster management.


Forest fires threatening Odisha’s flora and fauna


What to study?

  • For Prelims: Causes, effects and benefits of forest fires, MODIS- objectives and significance.
  • For Mains: Concerns, why they are on rise and the need for preparedness.


Context: Odisha had registered a sudden jump in forest fires across the State resulting in massive damage to flora and fauna.


As many as 5,332 fire spots had been noticed since November 1 last year, the beginning of forest fire season, in the State. The month of March had alone registered 4,495 fire spots.


Why worry about forest fires?

Apart from causing a huge loss to the timber and other fruit and leaf bearing trees and creepers of the forest, fires also destroy wildlife and their habitat. Nests and eggs of ground dwelling birds are lost. Reptiles also lose their young ones due to forest fires.


Causes of Forest Fire:

  • Forest fires are caused by Natural causes as well as Man-made or anthropogenic causes.
  • Natural causes such as lightning which set trees on fire. High atmospheric temperatures and low humidity offer favourable circumstance for a fire to start.
  • Man-made causes like flame, cigarette, electric spark or any source of ignition will also cause forest fires.
  • Traditionally Indian forests have been affected by fires. The problem has been aggravated with rising human and cattle population and the increase in demand for grazing, shifting cultivation and Forest products by individuals and communities.
  • High temperature, wind speed and direction, level of moisture in soil and atmosphere and duration of dry spells can intensify the forest fires.


Preparedness and mitigation measures:

Forest fires are usually seasonal. They usually start in the dry season and can be prevented by adequate precautions.

  1. Increase the number of fire fighters as well as equip them properly with drinking water bottles, back-up supplies of food and water, proper shoes or boots, rakes, spades and other implements, light, rechargeable torches, and so on.
  2. Seasonal labour could be contracted during the fire season.
  3. With adequate training, they would serve to fill gaps along the line. Local villagers would be the best resource.
  4. To keep the source of fire separated from combustible material.
  5. Do not allow combustible material to pile up
  6. Adopt safe practices in areas near forests viz. factories, coalmines, oil stores, chemical plants and even in household kitchens.
  7. In case of forest fires, the volunteer teams are essential not only for fire fighting but also to keep watch on the start of forest and sound an alert.
  8. Arrange fire fighting drills
  9. Extra funds should be used for hiring more Forest Department field staff to put out fires during the fire season and to patrol the forests during other times.


How does government get informed on Forest Fire?

When a fire is detected by NASA’s MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) and VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) satellites, the Forest Survey of India (FSI) analyses the data by overlaying the digitised boundaries of forest areas to pinpoint the location to the exact forest compartment.

The FSI relays news of the fire to the concerned State, so that the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) in charge of the forest where the fire is raging is informed.


About MODIS:

MODIS (or Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) is a key instrument aboard the Terra (originally known as EOS AM-1) and Aqua (originally known as EOS PM-1) satellites.

  • Terra’s orbit around the Earth is timed so that it passes from north to south across the equator in the morning, while Aqua passes south to north over the equator in the afternoon.
  • Terra MODIS and Aqua MODIS are viewing the entire Earth’s surface every 1 to 2 days, acquiring data in 36 spectral bands, or groups of wavelengths.

Significance: These data will improve our understanding of global dynamics and processes occurring on the land, in the oceans, and in the lower atmosphere. MODIS is playing a vital role in the development of validated, global, interactive Earth system models able to predict global change accurately enough to assist policy makers in making sound decisions concerning the protection of our environment.


Sources: the hindu.

Mains Question: Of late incidents of forest fire are on the rise. Discuss the causes behind forest fires, approaches of fighting forest fires and ways of mitigating them?