Disaster Events | Forests | VOL. 16, ISSUE 96, May-June 2016

Forest Fires in Uttarakhand

The Himalayan mountain system is one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world due to its inherent tectonic and geological characteristics (Valdiya, 1983). It is a rich storehouse of biodiversity ranging from tropical/subtropical evergreen, subtropical chir pine and broad leaf temperate forests, along with conifer to subalpine and alpine meadows. Frequent forest fires have emerged as one of the severe threats to Himalayan biodiversity, as also natural regeneration and productive capacity of its forests. Every fire translates to loss of soil, wildlife and forest produce, while adversely affecting the rural economy and ecosystem of the area (Kimothi & Jadav, 1998). According to the Forest Survey of India (FSI), during the Sixth Five Year Plan period, over 5,72,417 hectares (ha) of India’s forests were affected by fires amounting to a loss of over half million USD (FSI, 1989). A recent report on the status of forests reveals that on an average, 53.91 per cent of the total recorded forest area in India is fire prone. The average is based on the National Forest Inventory Data collected during 2004-2012 from the 179 districts representing different forest areas of the country (Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, 2015).   Historical perspective During pre-colonial period until the late 18th century, India’s rich forest diversity had been a major source of sustenance for the people living in and...

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