Topic of the Day – Renuka Choudhary Committee on Forest Fires

UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – Renuka Choudhary Committee on Forest Fires

 

The Renuka Choudhary Committee on Forest Fires was formed after a series of devastating forest fires in 2016, also the prolonged one that charred 4,000 hectares of forest land across 13 districts in Uttarakhand.

  • In Himachal and Uttarakhand, over 17,502 acres have been ravaged due to forest fires which is a rise of over 171 per cent.
  • One-third of the forest fires in India occur in the three central States of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. A tenfold increase has been observed in Madhya Pradesh, from just 294 forest fires in 2015 to more than 2,600 forest fires in 2016.

 

Root cause

  • The frequency of forest fires has increased by almost 56 per cent from 2015 to 2016. Around 90 per cent of the fires are deliberately lit by local people in order to scare away wild animals, clear off the pieces of evidence of illegal felling of trees, clear the forest floor or burn the undergrowth.

 

Details in the report

  • The report laid its primary focus on prevention and containing fires in the forests of Himalaya spreading across J&K, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
  • Chir pine needles because of high content of resin are inflammable and are one of the most predominant factors in causing and spreading of forest fires.
  • The committee’s observation throws light upon the reasons such as unsophisticated fire-fighting equipment, inefficient frontline forest staff.

 

Suggestions

  • The committee has recommended the procurement of sweeping machines to clear Chir pine needles on the roadside.
  • It has also advocated large-scale programmes and incentives (including under the MGNREGA) for collecting pines for use as fuel.
  • The Uttarakhand government has suggested thinning of pine reserve forest areas for reducing the biological load. The report suggests replacing these forests with “broad-leaf” plants.
  • The Committee recommended state administration to ensure that there is no encroachment of forest land or violation of forest conservation rules. Practical and effective steps have to be taken by the Municipal and town planning agencies in the states.
  • The committee recommended the use of drones for monitoring the forest fires instead of fire watchers and CCTV cameras.
  • The committee suggested community involvement in forest management.
  • It emphasized the importance of traditional forest management operations like forest floor clearing, controlled burning and creation of water harvesting structures.
  • It recommended the creation of fire lines as they are critical in getting the forest fire under control.
  • It also called for adequate budgetary allocations from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for fire line clearing.

 

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