INDIA – Dehradun: The Forest Survey of India (FSI) has sent out around 4,000 fire alerts across the country in the past one week through both satellites MODIS and SNPP-VIIRS. The FSI data, accessed by TOI, indicates that in the past one week, from May 18 to May 25, 3,971 fire alerts have been sent out to all the states.
Of the 3,971 alerts, the maximum 746 were from Chhattisgarh, followed by 618 from Madhya Pradesh, 438 from Maharashtra, 422 from Andhra Pradesh and 410 from Telangana.
The Director General (DG) of Forest Survey of India (FSI), Subhash Ashutosh, attributed the high number of forest fires to the rising temperatures. He said, “Due to intermittent rains and good moisture on the forest floor, wildfires are lesser this year. But with the rising mercury, more forest fires are likely in the coming days. For Central India next one month is going to be crucial given IMD’s alert regarding the heat wave condition.”
Incidentally, the same week in 2019 recorded 6,500 fire alerts from across the country. This year, the number has been 38% less due to intermittent rainfall.
The situation in Uttarakhand, which boasts of over 70% forest cover, is also better than the last year.
BK Gangtey, chief conservator of forests & state nodal officer (forest fire) of the forest department, said that in the past one week, the state has recorded only 15 fire alerts. He said, “Since February this year, the state has reported 55 incidents of forest fire, in which around 71.46 hectares of forest cover was gutted compared to the last year’s damage to 1,590 hectares in the same period. Forest fire alerts from FSI are playing a crucial role in managing the fires on field.”
The FSI data added that neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh have reported 74 and 102 wildfire incidents in the past one week.
The alerts could, however, be further worrisome for states such as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh that are fighting to contain the Covid outbreak.
The two satellites capture fires in forest areas and its fringes too. While in some cases, the forest department carries out controlled burning of leaves to clear the fire lines but the satellites also capture these as forest fires. Hence, the forest department often claims that all fire alerts sent by FSI are not correct, which has been a long-standing conflict.