Thursday 22 December 2016

Forest Fires in Uttarakhand show steep increase in 2016

Written by Anil Singh

Forest fires are not uncommon in Uttarakhand. In addition to natural factors such as friction between dried leaves and twigs caused by natural factors, the forest fires in Uttarakhand are also caused by the deliberate actions of people. These deliberate actions are aimed at clearing forest lands for more and better forage (in Hindi 'Chara') in forest and Panchayati lands. There are some other factors in play as well. For instance, large proliferation of Chir forests (Chir pine needles — which are inflammable due to their high-resin content); and increased inflow of tourists in the State.

A Parliamentary Sanding Committee on Science and Technology, headed by Rajya Sabha MP Renuka Choudhary, in its report submitted on December 16, 2016 says that fires in the Himalayan forests spread across Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir saw a steep rise in forest fores in 2016.

The forest fires in Central Indian forests and the Himalayan Pine forests, have seen a drastic 55 per cent increase in the past year. This is steep rise, as even for drought year 2015, the year on year increase was 16 percent.
The number has touched 24,817 in 2016, a “really alarming” rise, from around 15,937 fires in 2015.

The situation is alarming and the Committe thus recommends a national policy on managing forest fires.

Data for pan India paints an even drastic picture 

The three central States of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh contribute a third of the forest fires.  
Madhya Pradesh has seen a nearly ten-fold increase, from just 294 in 2015 to more than 2,600 in 2016. 
Forest Fires in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in 2016
In the forest fires in 13 districts or Uttarakhand this year, about 4,000 hectares of forest land got wiped off of forests.
In Himachal and Uttarakhand, over 17,502 acres have been ravaged this year due to forest fires — a rise of over 171 per cent. 

What the Committee report  on Forest Fires 2016 recommends

  • Clearing pines to save forests

Let's hope that a big expert panel with no direct political affiliations were instrumental in making the report. As far as Pine forests are concerned then they also play a role in Himalayan ecosystem. They help prevent soil erosion and land slides. That's why you will see pine trees alongside Himalayan roads. They can can survive the harshest of conditions present. Hence, if nothing survives, even at those places Pines can.

So what is the meaning of Clearing of Pines? Pines may not be helpful in water logging to conserving, the way Devdar (Himalayan Cedar) is; but still they have some role to play.

Although the Report believes accumulated Chir pine needles as a “prominent factor in occurring and spreading of forest fires”, to what extent this can be said only an expert on Himalayan Ecology can tell.

The Uttarakhand government has made a recommendation to deduce the density of Pine in Pine reserve forest areas. This is very similar to the suggestion made in the report, which recommends replacing these forests with “broad-leaf” plants. The report also recommends procurement of sweeping machines to clear roadsides of Chir pine needles, and link collection of Chir Pine needles and pines with large scale initiatives and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, NREGA.

another key recommendation is to employ more people to safeguard forests from sabotage and procure more fire fighting equipment.

What seems missing

The local touch. The report seems to be recommending solutions without having a broader knowledge of Himalayan Ecology. Forests are not proliferated and contained with one measure or the other. Protecting forests means preserving forests with its natural ecosystem. This surely means looking back at History and studying what Uttarakhand Forests and its flora & fauna looked like 100 years ago. This cannot be done without having seasoned, erudite experts into picture -- the experts who not only know Himalayan Ecology but also Uttarakhand Culture & History.


0 constructive comments: