Forest fires increase in Uttarakhand, what is latest status?

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Ground Report | News Desk

Uttarakhand’s forest fire season has now reached again its peak, the concern of everyone has increased with reports of over 20 incidents of fire in the forests in a span of four days. Although the rate of spread of fire in the forests is still quite low compared to previous years, the way the weather has changed and temperature has increased, it has increased the challenge. In fact, this time the weather was in favor of the fire fighters since the fire season started on 15 February.

On Saturday last week, a fierce fire broke out in the forests located in Srinagar area of ​​Pauri-Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. Due to the strong heat and sunlight, the forest in Uttarakhand’s forest areas catch fire. The fire is spreading rapidly due to the strong wind. At the same time, grass and wood have dried up in the forest due to strong sunlight, due to which the fire is spreading very fast.

Uttarakhand witness forest fire every year during the summer season and the number of these fire events is reported to have increased every year which is a major concern.

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According to the study of researchgate presents burnt area assessment caused by the fire episode of April 2016 to the forest vegetation. Digital classification of satellite images was done to extract the burnt area which was found to be 3774.14 km², representing 15.28% of the total forest area of the state. It also gives an account of cumulative progression of forest fire in Uttarakhand using satellite images of three dates viz.

2104 hectares of forest burned last year

The cause of the fire cannot be known at the moment. Usually in the summer, there is a fire in the dry leaves and grassfires of the mountainous areas, which on seeing it mixes large forests in the blanket. One such fire was reported last year, in which more than two thousand hectares of forest in Uttarakhand was found in ashes.

This fire is reminiscent of 2016. In 2016, 4,538.21 hectares were burnt by forest fire. The destruction of the forest fire is nothing new. Since Uttarakhand was formed in 2000, 44,518 hectares of forest has been burnt in fire. Despite this, fire extinguishing measures have proved inadequate.

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Uttarakhand has 45.32% of its geographical area under the forest cover. It is the only north Indian state to have more than 33% of area under forest cover. When we include permanently snowbound landscapes and alpine pastures as forests, the total area recorded as forests is as high as 71.05%.

Number of Forest fire incidents in India in recent years

Every year, there are numerous cases of forest fire incidents recorded across India. The data contains forest fire incidents recorded up to June 2019. Hence the data for 2019 is incomplete.

Since 2015, the numbers show a stark increase in the number of such incidents. The cases have increased from 15,937 in 2015 to 37,059 in 2018 amounting to a shocking 133% increase. The 2019 figure is also expected to surpass the 2018 figure since we have the data only for 6 months.

Among the other years, the number of incidents in 2010 and 2012 were also remarkably high- 30,892 and 29,362 respectively. The Indian Meteorological Department reported in 2018 that 11 of the 15 warmest years recorded in India since 1901, were between 2004 and 2008. The report further noted that 2018 marked the sixth warmest year with 2016, 2009, 2017, 2010 and 2010 being the top five hottest years in that order. The years 2009, 2012 and 2016 were recorded as drought years in India as per the Forest Survey of India.