While the frequency of forest fire appears to have increased in the country, India’s approach towards forest fire management has significant gaps. Elucidate. (10 marks)
- Introduce with increased frequency of forest fires in India
- Bring out the various gaps in forest fire management (NIDM report identified the gaps)
- Conclude appropriately
India, which saw a 46% increase in the number of forest fires in the last 16 years (2003-17), witnessed a 125% spike (from 15,937 to 35,888) in such fires in just two years (2015 to 2017). According to Forest Survey Report of India, 64.29 per cent of the Recorded Forest Area is prone to fires. As the number of incidents showed a rising trend, the Intensification of Forest Management Scheme was revised and replaced as Forest Fire Prevention & Management Scheme in 2017. However, there remain significant gaps.
Key gaps in forest fire management (as per NIDM):
- Lack of appropriate policy and planning to tackle forest fire: Existing forest policy and other documents, including plans etc. lack clear guidelines for forest fire management.
- Lack of proper institutional mechanism: There is no institutional mechanism with sole responsibility of fire management, even in higher fire prone regions. The forest department looks after forest fire management.
- Emphasis on response only: Focus is on response, while little importance is given to mitigation, preparedness, human resource development, awareness etc.
- Lack of scientific approach to collect fire data and document it for forest fire management: At State level, there is not much effort to collect and document forest fire data and use it in research and planning. Only the Forest Survey of India has recently started compiling forest fire data.
- Lack of funding: There is no provision for separate budget for forest fire management at State level in general. Forest protection fund is used.
- Not many initiatives to involve local community in forest fire management: There is a need to involve community by providing them some initiatives to protect forest from fires.
- Poor response to HRD and other capacity building initiatives: Forest departments in most of the cases are not trained and lack complete knowledge about forest fire and its behavior. The forest department training institutes are also not well equipped.
- Lack of proper contingency plans and rehearsals/drills for fire suppression
- Poor early warning system: Forest departments still use the traditional methods to detect fires and disseminate information at field levels. There is an urgent need to revitalize the system using modern techniques and train the field staff to use them more effectively.
- Lack of preventive and preparedness measures to ensure better response: Preparedness activities like clearing fire lines, removing the fuel (dead wood, leaves etc.), recruiting forest fire watchers, rehearsal and drill practices etc. are essential.
- Lack of coordination between various agencies: Coordination of forest departments with other agencies, whose support may be very important in forest fire management, is very poor.
Forest fires are today a leading cause of forest degradation in India while also leading to loss of lives and livelihoods. There is a need for a comprehensive national policy and guidelines for forest fire prevention and management, with focus on institutions and capacity, community engagement, technology, and data learning from national and international best practices.
Subjects : Disaster Management