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OCTOBER

13

2018

    ENVIRONMENT & ECOLOGY

    Forest Fires: Most Frequent In Northeast, Largest Affected Area Is Central

    News: Forest fires: most frequent in Northeast, largest affected area is Central.
    Source: The Indian Express

    A joint report on forest fires released recently by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change and the World Bank contains two telling findings on the distribution of such fires.

    In terms of frequency of forest fires, 16 of the top 20 districts are in the Northeast. And in terms of area, almost half of the affected area is in just 20 districts; the largest affected area is in Central India.

    Two-thirds of the country’s forest cover is concentrated in these two regions, the Northeast accounting for 36%; Central India for 28%.

    The 20 districts that had the largest number of fires (40% of total) during 2003-16 , however, account for only 16% of India’s forest cover (and 3% of the land area). Of the 20 districts, 5 are in Mizoram, 4 in Manipur, 3 in Meghalaya and 2 each in Assam and Tripura. The 4 districts outside the NE are in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh (2) and Odisha.

    Of the total area affected by forest fires during 2003-16, 56% was in Central India, and 48% (24,000 sq km) in 20 districts. These districts account for just 12% of the country’s forest cover (as calculated for 2000) and 7% of its land area. The report cited an estimate that nearly 49,000 sq km of forests — an area larger than Haryana — were burnt in 2014.

    Fires are a major cause of forest degradation and have wide ranging adverse ecological, economic and social impacts.

    • Loss of valuable timber resources

    • Degradation of catchment areas

    • Loss of biodiversity and extinction of plants and animals

    • Global warming

    • Loss of carbon sink resource and increase in percentage of CO2 in atmosphere

    • Change in the microclimate of the area with unhealthy living conditions

    • Soil erosion affecting productivity of soils and production

    • Ozone layer depletion

    • Loss of livelihood for tribal people and the rural poor