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Western Ghats Burning: These five states in India facing forest fires in March

Forest fires in India have surged by 115% in the first 12 days of March, owing to the lack of rainfall in February

By Ground Report
New Update
Western Ghats Burning: These five states in India facing forest fires in March

Forest fires in India have surged by 115% in the first 12 days of March, owing to the lack of rainfall in February and unusually high temperatures.

The Forest Survey of India (FSI) detected approximately 42,799 forest fires between March 1 and March 12 through its satellite-based forest fire monitoring system. This number is significantly higher compared to last year's figure of 19,929 forest fires during the same period.

The Forest Survey of India's website reports that there are 337 active forest fires in the country, Hindustan Times reported.

A total of 772 significant forest fires were reported on Monday, with the highest number being 202 in Odisha, followed by 101 in Mizoram, 61 in Chhattisgarh, 48 in Andhra Pradesh, 43 in Assam, and 21 in Maharashtra.

State-wise forest fire report

Karnataka forest fire

The Karnataka forest department has reported 1,956 cases of wildlife offences in the state between 2018 and 2022.

In addition, since February 15 of this year, over 2,042 fire incidents have been recorded in the forests of Karnataka, with 627 of them being large-scale forest fires.

Forest divisions, including Belagavi, Bhadravathi, Chikkaballapura, Chitradurga, Haliyal, Hassan, Ramanagara, and Sagar have been the most affected, with 245, 178, 128, 129, 151, 117, 105, and 163 fire incidents, respectively.

An anonymous senior forest officer informed the Indian Express that poachers deliberately start fires to drive animals to specific locations where hunting becomes easier.

Although instances of hunting are infrequent, the offenders are identified and penalized. The officer further explained that farmers and villagers set up snares and electric fences due to the fear of wild animals straying into human settlements.

In some cases, carcasses are buried secretly, and their skin, nails, and claws are sold in the market. The forest department is vigilant and apprehends the culprits, although some of the cases are still being investigated.

Goa Forest fire

A series of forest fires have erupted in Goa in recent days, fueled by a prolonged dry spell and high temperatures with low humidity, creating an ideal environment for the spread of fire.

The fires have primarily affected deciduous areas, burning loose and dried vegetation, shrubs, small trees, and saplings that grow close to the ground. Smoke and fumes have covered a large area due to the burning debris.

Finally, after 11 days, the forest fires inside Goa’s wildlife sanctuaries have been brought under control. Officials from the Union environment ministry and the National Disaster Management Authority met with forest officials in Goa to assess the areas affected by the fires and advise them to take corrective measures.

According to The New Indian Express, the Mahadayi Wildlife Sanctuary, located on the Karnataka-Goa border, has been severely affected by the fires. The Goa government had collaborated with authorities in Karnataka to combat the fire.

A statement from the Press Information Bureau suggested that the prolonged dry spell may have been the cause of the multiple fires. "The long dry spell (with almost no rains since mid-October 2022), combined with unprecedented high summer temperatures and low humidity, has created a conducive atmosphere for fire."

Tamil Nadu Forest Fire

Officials have reported that a massive fire destroyed nearly 10 hectares of forest area near Kodaikanal hills in Tamil Nadu's Dindigul district.

The fire, suspected to be caused by dry weather, was contained by the forest department officials after over 15 hours of struggle on Wednesday. Fortunately, no animals were reported dead or injured in the incident.

"The fire has been doused," said a forest department official, adding that it broke out on March 15 due to severe heat in the Kodaikanal forest area.

Odisha forest fire

The Forest & Environment Minister of Odisha, Pradip Kumar Amat, stated that almost all forest fires are caused by humans.

He reported that 22,786 fire points have been identified in Odisha, out of which 4563 are not from the jungle but are mainly due to stubble burning.

The forest department has been actively working to extinguish forest fires as soon as they start and has already managed to extinguish 98 percent of the fire points in the jungles of Odisha.

He also stated that they have directed to detain and question suspicious persons found roaming in the reserve forests and other jungles, and action will be taken against those found lighting fires in the jungle.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that wildfires are still spreading rapidly in the Simlipal National Park in Mayurbhanj district, which is the second-largest biosphere reserve in Asia, since February this year.

Arunachal Pradesh forest fire

For the past few days, a forest fire has been raging on the outskirts of the State capital, engulfing forest plantations. To control the fire in the Ganga-Chimi area, Itanagar Capital Complex Deputy Commissioner in-charge Sachin Rana called an "emergency" meeting with stakeholders on Wednesday to discuss strategies.

During the meeting, officials from the Forest and Fire and Emergency Services Departments reported that they have deployed men and machinery to control the fire.

However, due to the inaccessible terrain, they were only able to reach a certain extent and the fire could not be completely extinguished.

Rana formed a team led by ADC Shweta Nagarkoti as Incident Commander, which will proceed to the incident site the following morning, with additional manpower from Police, Fire and Emergency Services, SDRF, Forest, and Aapda Mitra volunteers deployed to assist the team.

According to a report by the Forest Survey of India (FSI), around 6% of forest cover in India is highly fire-prone, while 4% is extremely prone to fire.

The report also reveals that 54.40% of forests in India are occasionally exposed to fires, 7.49% to moderately frequent fires, and 2.40% to high incidence levels. The remaining 35.71% of India’s forests have not yet been exposed to fires of any significant level.

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