Forest Fires in Uttarakhand

Forest Fires in Uttarakhand

News: The Chir Pine Belt in Uttrakhand is prone to numerous Forest Fires.

Background:
 Uttarakhand accounts for 1.6 per cent of India’s total geographical area. But in terms of forest cover, the state accounts for 45 per cent, in contrast to national forest cover of just 21.67 per cent.
 The floral composition of the state — located in the sub-tropical latitudinal range — is majorly narrowleaved species like Pinus, Picea and Abies.
 These species are rich in organic polymers, making them vulnerable to forest fires. When exposed to low temperatures and humidity, these organic residues (plant-based litter) can trigger fire outbreaks.

What factors contribute to Forest Fires in Chir Pine Belt?
 High Forest density as discussed above and Chir pine dominates the forest composition in the region. Pine trees are rich in organic polymers, making them vulnerable to forest fires.
 Pine needles and other plant-based litter create fuel for fires. Dry biomass increases the risk of fire outbreaks.
 Uttarakhand experiences low rainfall and high temperatures. The ample availability of dry biomass during the summer season increases fire risks. Also, Strong winds contribute to the rapid spread of fires across the forests.
 Timber smugglers also threaten the forest ecosystem by creating artificial fires to divert the attention of officials. Forest fire also induces the outward movement of wild animals, creating an opportunity for hunters and smugglers.
 Developmental activities such as improved road network in Uttarakhand has advanced and as the accessibility to forests has eased it has led to more human-induced fire hazards.

Steps to mitigate Forest Fires (in context of Uttarakhand): 
Mitigation :
Plantation of Broad leaved species - Oak, Rhododendron
Detect Forest Fires using Remote sensing and satellite data
Install watch towers to detect Forest fires
Ensure specialized teams are available for fire suppression.
Raise awareness and encourage responsible forest practices
Firebreak within Forests

Firebreak - A firebreak is a strip of bare land or vegetation established or created to retard fire. Firebreaks may be temporary or permanent and consist of fire-resistant vegetation, nonflammable materials, or bare ground.

Source – Down to Earth

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