Causes of forest fires in Himachal Pradesh

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Causes of forest fires in Himachal Pradesh

Source: The post causes of forest fires in Himachal Pradesh has been created, based on the article “How can Himachal Pradesh fight against forest fires?” published in “The Hindu” on 19th June 2024

UPSC Syllabus Topic: GS Paper3- disaster and disaster management

Context: The article discusses the severe forest fires in Himachal Pradesh, their causes, and the historical changes in Himalayan forestry practices. It suggests involving local communities in forest management and implementing various strategies to prevent fires and manage forests better. Causes of forest fires in Himachal Pradesh

For detailed information on forest fire read Article 1, Article 2

What is the current situation of forest fires in Himachal Pradesh?

  1. Extent of Damage: Himachal Pradesh is experiencing severe forest fires, with 1,684 instances reported since April 15. These fires have affected 17,471 hectares of forest land.
  2. Impact on Wildlife and Environment: The fires have caused significant harm to wildlife and are contributing to the release of pollutants like black carbon, which accelerates glacier melting in the Himalayas.
  3. Historical Data: From 2001 to 2023, Himachal Pradesh lost 957 hectares of tree cover specifically due to fires, emphasizing the recurring nature of this issue.

What are the major causes of forest fires in Himachal Pradesh?

  1. Dry Conditions: Fires in the Himalayas often occur during the pre-monsoon summer period when moisture levels are low due to depleted snowmelt water.
  2. Human Activities: Common causes include unattended campfires and discarded cigarettes.
  3. Historical Forestry Practices: The shift from Banj oak to Chir pine, driven by commercial interests, has increased fire vulnerability. For example, from 1910 to 1920, the number of trees tapped for resin rose dramatically.
  4. Faulty Forestry Practices: Treating forests purely for their utilitarian value without community involvement has exacerbated fire risks.

What should be done about forest fires in Himachal Pradesh?

  1. Involve Local Communities: Ensure people living around forests participate in management to quickly respond to fires.
  2. Reduce Chir Pine Trees: Replace Chir pine, which covers 17.8% of forest area, with mixed forestry to reduce fire risk.
  3. Implement Water Conservation: Build check dams and revive water springs to improve moisture conditions.
  4. Improve Forestry Practices: Move away from commercial forestry practices that prioritize timber over ecological balance.
  5. Seek Financial Support: Advocate for disaster mitigation funds from the 16th Finance Commission to support these initiatives.

Question for practice:

Discuss the major causes of forest fires in Himachal Pradesh.

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