HYDERABAD: Nothing destroys a forest quite like a bushfire. They cause huge damage to flora and fauna.
Forest fires are a major environmental hazard in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, affecting large portions of wooded area every year. As per a recent study by Hyderabad’s National Remote Sensing Center (NRSC) scientists, AP stood second among all states and Telangana stood seventh, for the forest area that was affected by fires in a year.
The study headed by C Sudhakar Reddy of NRSC recorded forest fires across India for 2014. It is the only Indian report that discloses state-wise figures. It found that 7,850.26 sq km of forests got gutted in AP which is about 25 per cent of the state’s forest area. For Telangana, the figure was 3,493.90 sq km, about 15 per cent of the forest of TS.
Man-made forest fires?
Experts point out that forest fires are man-made in India, unlike in Europe and North America where forest fires are common but are mostly naturally occurring. In these countries many tree species secrete resins or oils which catalyse forest fires. As a result fire spreads rapidly among trees, destroying canopy.
However, in India most of the forest fires are ground fires as majority of tree species here do not similar secrete resins or oils. These ground fires in most cases are spread by humans for purposes like management of grazing resources, to clear land for shifting cultivation or to encroach forest land.
TS and AP’s forest departments are asked to try to control these fires. Man-made fires spread more rapidly in forests of the Telugu states as they are home to ‘central deccan plateau’s dry deciduous forests’ where the forest floor for most of the year has dry leaves which aids the fire.
Telugu states’ districts very vulnerable
The study reported that there were ten districts across India where more than 1,000 sq km of forests were gutted in 2014. Four of them are AP districts - Kadapa, Prakasam, Chittoor and Kurnool and one is from TS - Khammam. There are also 17 districts across country where burnt forest area ranged between 500 - 1000 sq km, including three from Telangana - erstwhile Warangal, Mahbubnagar and Adilabad
Climate change contributing to it: IISc
With threat of climate change increasing, the forest fires are expected to increase. As per a study conducted earlier by scientists from Indian Institute of Science (IISc) - Bangalore, 62 per cent forests of AP and Telangana are vulnerable to climate change one of the effects of which is increase in frequency of forest fires.