Author: Vishwas Chitale Shravan Prabhu

In a rapidly warming world, India should focus on effectively managing forest fires



The frequency of forest fire incidents in India has increased by 52% in the last two decades, from 2000 to 2020, according to a 2021 analysis by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water. This year too, there have already been fires in the non-fire-prone wet forests of Goa, and in the forests of Karnataka, Odisha, and Uttarakhand.


Technology: First should be tapping the revolution in internet and geospatial technologies to effectively manage fires in all three phases. In the pre-fire phase, a detailed forest fire risk assessment should be conducted and incorporated in fire management plans to prioritise actions and areas. This assessment should utilise fire occurrence-based hotspot data along with other landscape indicators such as proximity to infrastructure, economic reliance on forests, and social factors.


Capacity: The second is enhancing the capacity of local stakeholders to reduce fire risk and improve response. Given that the communities dependent on forests for their livelihoods are those most affected by fires, they need to be included in all levels of decision-making that pertain to their geography. There is an urgent need to build awareness among communities on the controlled burning of dry vegetation.


Scaling: Various community-level forest fire early warning systems exist in the country, for instance, in Odisha’s Kandhamal district where volunteers from the Youth4Water Plus campaign have worked closely with the residents to educate them on preventing forest fires. Similarly, Kharkiya’s women in Uttarakhand mobilised to form a Mahila Mangal Dal who put out fires quickly through early warning alerts on WhatsApp.


Mainstreaming: While the 2018 national plan on forest fires encompasses various activities, there are significant challenges in terms of financial constraints and operational effectiveness. To deal with this, it is crucial to shift the focus of forest fire management from response to preparedness by institutionalising forest fire risk assessments in exposed state and district disaster management plans.


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Hazards Wildfire
Country and region India
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