Forest fires cost India INR 11 billion a year: World Bank



Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, October 10: With at least one in four Indians dependent on forests for their livelihood, this country is losing at least INR11 billion (US$ 150 million or LKR 25.5 billion) due to forest fires every year, says a new World Bank report.

The port,  Strengthening Forest Fire Management in India, jointly prepared by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the World Bank, was released by Union Minister Harsh Vardhan here on Tuesday.

Forest fires occur in around half of the country’s 647 districts every year. However, repeated fires in short succession are reducing diversity of species and harming natural regeneration, while posing a risk to over 92 million people in India who live in areas of forest cover, said the report.

Analysing patterns and trends of forest fires in India, the report highlights that central India has the largest area affected by fire. The region, which has the highest forest cover in India after North-East, accounts for 56% of burnt forest land during 2003-2016, followed by southern states and the North-East.

However, North-eastern states account for the biggest share of fire detections, with at least 55% of fire incidents reported during 2003-2016. The report calls for a national plan for the prevention of forest fire.

The findings are significant since preventing forest fires is crucial to meet Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) in order to limit global warming. As per the Fifth Assessment Report of IPCC, forest fires globally contribute 2.5 billion to 4.0 billion tonnes of CO2 to carbon emissions every year.

Tackling forest fires is even more important in India as the country has committed to bringing 33% of its geographical area under forest cover by 2030, as part of its Nationally Determined Goals (NDC) and increases its forest cover by five million hectares, as part of India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change.

Harsh Vardhan said an aggressive strategy is needed to control forest fires. "Forest fire management is part of our long-term vision for sustainable forest management. Forest fires can be controlled only by using an aggressive strategy. Apart from incentivizing communities and forest departments, there is also a need to bring a social movement across states to address the issue.

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