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Odisha reports 542 forest fires in last 7 days, highest in India: FSI

GS Paper 1

Syllabus: Geophysical phenomenon

 

Source: HT

Context:  Forest fires continued to remain unabated in Odisha after the state recorded 542 such cases in the last seven days making it the highest among all states in the country.

 

Forest fires in India:

Causes of a Forest fire:

  • Natural: Such as lightning, high atmospheric temperatures, and dryness (low humidity) offer favourable circumstances.
  • Man-made: When a source of fire like naked flame, cigarette, or bidi comes into contact with inflammable material.

 

Types of a forest fire:

  • Surface fire: Spread along the surface litter (leaves, twigs, dry grasses) on the forest floor.
  • Ground fire: Fires in the subsurface organic fuels, such as duff layers under forest stands, burn underneath and are often ignited by surface fires.
  • Crown fire: A crown fire is one in which the crown of trees and shrubs burn, often sustained by a surface fire.

 

Good/bad:

  • Helps in the evolution of forests (such as dry deciduous forests and savannahs),
  • Landscape/disease management (indigenous people like the Soligas have used controlled forest fires to reduce incidences of tick-borne diseases),
  • Controls the growth of invasive species, etc.
  • However, forest fires can have lasting negative impacts on biodiversity (loss of flora, fauna, ecological services), the economic stability of many communities that live in forests, etc.

 

Vulnerability:

  • ~65% of Indian forests are prone to occasional/frequent forest fire events.
  • Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh were the most impacted states and Gadchiroli, Kandhamal, and Bijapur were the most impacted districts.
  • The youngest mountain ranges of the Himalayas/chirr (Pine) forests (Western > Eastern as E. Himalayas grow in high rain density) are the most vulnerable stretches of the world.
  • There has been a 10-fold increase in forest fire incidences in the last two decades.
  • According to the MoEFCC, the country reported 3,45,989 forest fire incidents during (Nov 2020 and June 2021) and the state of Odisha reported 51,968 – the highest in India.

 

Impact of climate change:

  • It might lead to more wildfire-inducing ‘hot lightning’ strikes.
    • Hot lightning or long continuing current strikes (which can last up to a third of a second) are more likely to ignite wildfires than typical lightning strikes.

 

Preparedness and mitigation measures: Forest fires are usually seasonal. Hence, fires can be prevented in the summer –

  • Through the removal of forest litter all along the forest boundary (“Forest Fire Line“).
  • By creating firebreaks/ ditches in the forests.
  • The FSI is using satellite imaging technology
    • To set up fire alert systems (MODIS, SNPP) and analyse fire-affected forest areas
    • To better understand the ecology of forest fires for restoration and fire prevention efforts

 

Related topic: Landfill fires

Source: TN

Context: Landfill fires are becoming a big challenge for India’s urban civic bodies (recently in Kochi)

Recent incidents: Ghazipur, Delhi’s Bhalswa, and Chennai’s Perungudi

What triggers landfill fires?

●        A landfill site is a site for the disposal of waste materials and is the oldest and most common form of waste disposal.

●        The landfill sites in India are not scientifically planned.

●        The wastes are not segregated due to which the landfill sites receive mixed wastes which include organic waste/ignitable material/plastics.

●        The anaerobic decomposition (breakdown of organic waste in the absence of oxygen) generates methane gas and heat.

●        As soon as the methane gas comes in contact with oxygen, the combustible materials at the dumping site catch fire easily.

Challenges: The landfill fires take time to exhaust due to several factors which include –

●        Multiple ignition points,

●        Lack of constant water supply and

●        The danger involved in climbing the tall mounds of garbage.

Way ahead: The Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 state that only non-recyclable, non-biodegradable, and non-combustible waste should go to a sanitary landfill.

 

Insta Links: Forest fires