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Forest fires

General Studies  1

Syllabus: Geography

Source: The Hindu


In France, Greece, Portugal and Spain, wildfire destroys thousands of hectares of land, forces thousands from their homes and kills several emergency personnel.

  • A wildfire is a major fire that breaks out unpredictably in combustible environments such as dry forests or bush and often burns uncontrollably over a large area and length of time. A forest fire can be triggered by natural factors such as prolonged hot, dry weather or lightning strikes, or human carelessness.

Heatwaves have become more frequent, more intense, and last longer because of human-induced climate change. The world has already warmed by about 1.1C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to carbon emissions.

Status: As per the Global Forest Watch, forest fires in India have increased by 125% (between 2015 and 2017). At a global level as well, the world is undergoing through wildfire crisis, with reports of wildfires in Siberia, the Amazon basin, Pantanal wetland (South America), Australia, and the rainforest of Indonesia.


The reason behind the global wildfires:

  • Natural Causes: Environmental causes are largely related to climatic conditions such as
    • Extreme climatic conditions: g. high wind speed and direction, temperature, low level of moisture in soil and atmosphere, and duration of dry spells.
    • Lightning strike:g. in Australia, most bushfires are caused by lightning
    • The friction of bamboos swaying due to high wind velocity: e.g. in deciduous forests of northeast India Rolling stones that result in sparks: In the mountainous forested e.g. Uttrakhand
    • Role of El Nino and La Nina:g. Indonesian in 2019 experienced high forest fire incidents due to el Nino’s impact
    • Role of sudden stratospheric warming in Antarctica: 2020 bush fires in Australia was further strengthened
  • Human related causes
    • Intentional fires:
      • Economical reasons: e.g. Human-caused fires are also a major issue in Indonesia, where large areas of peatland were burned during last year’s fires to be converted into tree plantations.
        • In Pantanal (South America): Soy and cattle farmers set fires on their land during the summer, but drought and strong winds caused these fires to rage out of control and surpass traditional barriers such as roads and streams.
      • Graziers and gatherers start small fires to get good grazing grass for their cattle and to gathering minor forest produce such as Madhuca Indica flowers and leaves of Diospyros elanoxylon.
      • Shifting cultivation practice: North-Eastern region of India and in parts of the States of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh).
      • Forest fires by villagers to ward off wild animals.
    • Unintentional fires: logging activity-related fires, campfires in forests for recreation, E.g. through discards cigarette butts
  • Climate change: It is increasing the fire season and the size of areas affected by the fire. Droughts, which might be exacerbated by climate change, also make wildfires more likely.
    • g. Australia has been experiencing such a drought over the past few years, which contributed to the widespread of wildfires in 2020.
  • Climate change is changing the nature and intensity of the fires: There are more pyro-cumulonimbus clouds – clouds formed on top of heat sources – that can bring lightning-intensive storms and increase the spread of fire.
  • In Siberia and Russia, climate change is causing winters to become shorter and weather to become drier and windier, leading to more intense fires occurring across larger areas.


Measures to control:

  • Policy measures:
    • National Policy on Forest Fire: finalized by the government
    • National Plan for forest fire management: National Forest Fire Danger Rating System, Fire fighting tools and machinery (e.g. Fire Beaters, Pulaskis Tools, Forest Fire Showel, etc.)
    • Forest Fire Prevention & Management Scheme (FFPMS, 2017): a revised version of the Forest Management Scheme
  • Community participation: by the involvement of NGOs, Voluntary Organisations, Village Forest Committees (VFCs), etc.
    • Institutionalize the partnership with forest fringe communities
    • Devise a forest fire forecasting system at the local level
  • Forest Fire Monitoring: FSI uses NASA’s  MODIS  (Moderate Resolution  Imaging  Spectro-radiometer)  and  VIIRS (Visible  Infrared  Imaging  Radiometer  Suite)  satellites for its Forest fires alert system 2.0
  • Use of technology (such as Remote Sensing, GPS, and GIS) in planning, developing and operationalizing Fire management systems.


Insta Links

Forest Fires

Practice Questions

Enumerate the causes for the rising instances of forest fires in India. What measures are needed to mitigate the adverse impacts of forest fires? (250 Words)