Forest Degradation Fire Disasters in India during the Past Few Years

The normal fire season in India is from the month of February to mid June. India witnessed the most severe forest fires in the recent time during the summer of 1995 in the hills of Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayas in northern part of India. The fires were very severe and attracted the attention of whole nation. An area of 677, 700 ha was affected by fires. The quantifiable timber loss was around US$ 45 million. The loss to timber increment, loss of soil fertility, soil erosion, loss of employment, drying up of water sources and loss to biodiversity were not calculated by the Committee appointed by the Government to enquire into the causes of fires, as these losses are immeasurable but very significant from the point of view of both economy as well as ecology. The fires in the hills resulted in smoke in the area for quite a few days. The smoke haze, however, vanished after the onset of rains. These fires caused changes in the micro-climate of the area in the form of soil moisture balance and increased evaporation. Lack of adequate manpower, communication and, water availability in the hills helped this fire spread rapidly reaching the crown level. The thick smoke spread over the sky affecting visibility up to 14,000 feet.

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