Natural Disasters

Excess rainfall in these Indian protected areas offers no relief from wildfires

Over 50% of fire occurrences were reported from 9 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, shows DTE analysis

By Pulaha Roy
Published: Thursday 25 May 2023
Representative photo: iStock.
Representative photo: iStock. Representative photo: iStock.

Nearly 516 forest fires were reported in India from May 17 to May 23, 2023, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Over 50 per cent of these occurrences were reported from nine national parks and wildlife sanctuaries spanning across three states of Madhya Pradesh (MP), Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, as well as the six districts of Umaria and Sidhi (MP), Koriya and Sarguja (Chhattisgarh) and Garhwa and Latehar in Jharkhand.

Credit: Pulaha Roy.

Guru Ghasidas National Park, which is also a tiger reserve that traverses across the two states of MP and Chhattisgarh, reported the highest number of forest fires in India last week (129), followed by Palamau Tiger Reserve (37) in Jharkhand, according to NASA’s fire activities data.

While forest fires can be natural or anthropogenic, three favourable conditions are required to determine their spread — high wind speed, high temperature and little to no rainfall.

While Down To Earth couldn’t ascertain whether these wildfires were natural or human-induced, what is baffling is the fact that all the six districts where the national parks are located have reported significant excess rainfall in the last two months. 

While forest fires are often deadly, they are also a natural phenomenon and are often beneficial to an ecosystem in clearing out dead organic matter from the soil. Nearly four per cent of forest cover in the country is extremely prone to forest fires, and another six per cent is highly prone to fires, according to the Forest Survey of India (FSI).

Overall, over 50 per cent of forests are occasionally exposed to fire, while a little over 35 per cent “have not yet been exposed to fires of any real significance,” according to FSI.

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