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Odisha Tops Forest Fire

Country’s highest number of forest fire incidents has been reported in Odisha during the last session, from November 2020 to June 2021.

This was informed by Union Minister of State (MoS) for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ashwini Kumar Choubey in Lok Sabha on Monday.

A total of 345,989 forest fires were recorded by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) across the country during the eight months.

Odisha reported 51,968 forest fires during the period while Madhya Pradesh was in second position with 47,795 forest fires, followed by Chhattisgarh with 38,106, Maharashtra with 34,025, Jharkhand with 21,713, Uttarakhand with 21,487, Andhra Pradesh with 19, 328, Telangana with 18, 237, Mizoram with 12,846, Assam with 10,718 and Manipur with 10,457 in those months, the Union Minister said.

The number of incidences of forest fire in the country varies from year to year and occur during fire season from November to May, every year due to various natural and anthropogenic reasons including accumulation of inflammable materials such as dry leaves, twigs, pine needles etc., he said.

Choubey said most of the forest fires in the country are ground fires in which ground vegetation, etc. get burnt. The Forest Survey of India (FSI) sends forest fire alerts to all registered users on this alert system.

The Ministry in collaboration with the World Bank has conducted a study on Situation Analysis of Forest Fire and released a study report titled “Strengthening Forest Fire Management in India” which contains various recommendations regarding forest fire prevention, detection, suppression, post-fire management, engaging with communities and coordination with other agencies.

As per the report Nation-wide estimates of CO2 released have ranged from 6.34 million tons CO2 per year to 123.84 million tons CO2 per year. However, data regarding the Carbon released into the atmosphere due to forest fires is not maintained at the level of this Ministry, he pointed out.

The responsibility of forest fire prevention and management lies primarily with the respective States and Union Territories. The Ministry supports the efforts of the States and UTs in prevention and control of forest fire by providing financial assistance for various forest fire prevention and management measures under the Centrally Sponsored Forest Fire Prevention and Management Scheme.

A sum of about Rs 125 crore has been released to the States in the last three years (2018-19 to 2020-21) under this scheme, informed the Union Minister.

FSI has pursued States and UTs to increase the number of registered users of its alert system. Now, the number of such registered users has increased to around 1.30 lakh.

Similarly, the FSI also generates and disseminates “Weekly Early-Warning Alerts” of forest fires to concerned States and UTs. It has also initiated an innovative “Large Forest Fire Monitoring” programme in January 2019 which aims at improving tactical as well as strategic response to large forest fires by the respective States and UTs.

In addition to the above initiatives by FSI, the Government of India has constituted a national level committee that oversees the issues arising out of forest fires. The committee has advised all states to take several measures including constituting State-level Monitoring Committee on Forest Fire, preparing State Action Plan on Forest Fire, and Fire Risk Zone mapping.