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Wildfires

  • IASbaba
  • July 19, 2022
  • 0
Environment & Ecology
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In News: Europe is battling intense wildfires with countries like Spain, Greece and France struggling to stamp out fires and contain the damage.

Why are wildfires worsening?

  • Wildfires require right climatic conditions, burnable fuel and a spark.
  • Rising temperatures suck moisture out of plants, creating an abundance of dry fuel.
  • Drought and high heat can kill plants and dry out dead grass, and other material on the forest floor that fuel the fire once it starts sweeping through a patch.
  • While dry vegetation is the burnable fuel that serves as kindling for fires, the spark is sometimes caused by lightning, at other times by accident or recklessness of the local population.

Forest fires in India

Forest Fires

  • Also called bush or vegetation fire or wildfire, it can be described as any uncontrolled and non-prescribed combustion or burning of plants in a natural setting such as a forest, grassland, brush land or tundra, which consumes the natural fuels and spreads based on environmental conditions.
  • There are three conditions that need to be present in order for a wildfire to burn: fuel, oxygen, and a heat source.

Recent Data on forest Fires

  • A total of 381 forest fires have been reported in India by 30th March, 2022, according to the Forest Survey of India. Madhya Pradesh has recorded the highest number of fires at 133.
  • In March 2022, significant forest fires were reported in states such as Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
  • The recent fire at Rajasthan’s Sariska Tiger Reserve was also considered to have been unseasonal, with high temperatures exacerbating the spread of the fire.
  • January 2021 saw prolonged fires in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh (Kullu Valley) and Nagaland-Manipur border (Dzukou Valley)
  • Recent fires also include those in Bandhavgarh Forest Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.

Impact of Forest Fire:

  • Loss of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Forest fires destroy the habitats and the intricate relationships of diverse flora and fauna leading to loss of ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • Forest Degradation:
  • Almost every year, forest fires are witnessed across different forest regions which persistently reduce the quality of certain forest features like soil fertility, biodiversity, and ecosystems.
  • Air Pollution:
  • The huge clouds of smoke instigated by wildfires lead to massive air pollution.
  • Wildfire smoke, and particularly the concentration of PM 2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns, can also affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems
  • Global Warming:
  • When plant life is exterminated by fires greenhouse gasses increase in the atmosphere leading to climate change and global warming
  • Trees and vegetation when are burned, it means more greenhouse gases increases in the atmosphere, resulting in global warming
  • Soil Degradation:
  • Forest fires kill beneficial soil microorganisms that are responsible for breaking down the soil and promoting soil microbial activities.
  • The burning of trees and vegetation cover also leaves the soil bare making it readily vulnerable to soil erosion.

Measures to be taken

  • Recognise as a Disaster:
  • The forest fires should be treated as “natural disasters” and be brought under the National Disaster Management Authority.
  • Moreover, by designating forest fires as natural disasters, there will also be a financial allotment made to manage them.

Develop Alert system:

  • A forest fire alert system needs to be developed that can provide real time impact-based alerts.

Enhance Adaptive Capacity:

  • Capacity-building initiatives targeted at district administrations and forest-dependent communities can avert the extent of loss and damage due to forest fires.

Provide Clean Air Shelters:

  • The state government/ state forest departments (SFDs) should repurpose public buildings like government schools and community halls by fitting them with clean air solutions – like air filters – to create clean air shelters for communities worst impacted by fires and smoke from forest fires.

Source: Indian Express

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