Simlipal Forest Fires

  • IASbaba
  • March 4, 2021
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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  • GS-1: Geographical phenomena
  • GS-3: Environment and Ecology, Bio diversity – Conservation, environmental degradation, environmental impact assessment, Environment versus Development
  • GS-3: Issues relating to deforestation, land use pattern and use of fossil fuel.

Simlipal Forest Fires

Context: The Simlipal forest reserve area frequently witnesses forest fires during dry weather conditions. A fire which started in the biosphere reserve area in February 2021 was raging for nearly a week that was finally brought under control.

About Simlipal Reserve

  • Location: Similipal, which derives its name from ‘Simul’ (silk cotton) tree and is situated in the northern part of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district. 
  • Protection: It is a national park and a tiger reserve. Also, Similipal and the adjoining areas, comprising 5,569 sq km, was declared a biosphere reserve by the Government of India on June 22, 1994, and lies in the eastern end of the eastern ghats
  • Rich in Biodiversity: Similipal is the abode of 94 species of orchids and about 3,000 species of plants, 12 species of amphibians, 29 species of reptiles, 264 species of birds and 42 species of mammals. Sal is the dominant tree species.
  • Human Settlements: The transition zone of the reserve has 1,200 villages with a total population of about 4.5 lakh. Tribals constitute about 73 per cent of the population.

How fire prone is Simlipal forest?

  • Generally, with the onset of summers and towards the end of autumn, the forest area remains vulnerable to forest fires. 
  • They are a recurrent annual phenomenon, but are also brought under control due to short span of precipitation. The months of January and February witness rainfall of 10.8 and 21 mm, respectively. 
  • This duration coincides with the shedding of deciduous forests in the forest areas. The fallen leaves are more vulnerable to catching fire and facilitate the spreading of these forest fires quickly over the entire forest area.

Causes of forest fires

  • Natural causes such as lighting or even soaring temperatures can sometimes result in these fires. With dried leaves and tree trunks, even a spark can lead to a raging fire.
  • Poaching: Most of the fires can be attributed to man-made factors.  Instances of poaching and hunting wherein the poachers set a small patch of forest on fire to divert the wild animals can lead to such fires.
  • Collection of mahua flowers: jungle areas are also set on fire by villagers to clear the dry leaves on the ground for easy collection of mahua flowers. These flowers are used to prepare a drink which is addictive in nature.
  • Traditional Practices: Villagers also believe burning patches of sal trees will lead to better growth when planted again.
  • Climate Change: This year, along with man-made factors, an advanced heat wave with the early onset of summer further deteriorated the condition.

How are these forest fires controlled and prevented?

Such fires are generally brought under control by natural rains. some of the methods to prevent fires include

  • Forecasting fire-prone days 
  • Creating fire lines: The forest fire lines which are strips kept clear of vegetation, help break the forest into compartments to prevent fires from spreading.
  • Clearing sites of dried biomass
  • Crackdown on poachers 
  • Including community members to mitigate incidents of fire

Connecting the dots:

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