IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


20th March, 2024 Environment


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Picture Courtesy: https://thesouthfirst.com/featured/southern-splendour-embark-on-a-summer-escape-aboard-the-unesco-heritage-nilgiri-mountain-railway/

Context: Forest fires have become a major threat in South India, particularly in areas like the Nilgiris. They pose a severe threat to biodiversity, ecosystems, and human communities. 


  • A combination of natural and man-made factors is the primary driver of forest fires in South India. A major human cause of forest fires is the burning of trash, campfires, and abandoned cigarettes. Natural sources such as lightning strikes can contribute to the start of flames.

Forest fires have significant environmental and ecological consequences

  • Loss of Biodiversity: Fires destroy critical habitats for wildlife, displacing and potentially eradicating many species. This has the potential to upset entire food chains and ecosystems, thus impacting the region's natural balance.
  • Soil Erosion: When forests are burned, wind and rain cause the exposed soil to lose its topsoil covering. This erosion affects the land's fertility and ability to store water, resulting in desertification and lower agricultural productivity in the long run.
  • Air pollution: The smoke from the fires emits toxic toxins and particulates into the environment, contributing to respiratory issues including asthma and bronchitis. These pollutants can also travel long distances, affecting air quality in remote areas. In addition, fires can degrade air quality by diminishing the forest's ability to absorb CO2, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.


  • Climate Change: Rising global temperatures, shifting precipitation patterns, and stronger winds are all predicted to contribute to more frequent and intense forest fires in the future. These changes will result in drier conditions, making forests more prone to fires, and extreme weather events such as heatwaves will make it easier to start fires.
  • Limited resources: Forest departments are frequently underfunded and understaffed, which limits their ability to efficiently patrol forests, take preventive measures, and respond swiftly to fires. A lack of advanced firefighting equipment and technology further hinders their operations.
  • Human Behaviour: Wildfires may be greatly triggered by intentional or unintentional acts of burning. Accidental fires can be started by dropped cigarettes, incorrectly extinguished campfires, or agricultural activities such as burning crop leftovers. Intentional fire can be used to clear land for cultivation or grazing, or it might be motivated by personal hatred. Educating the public about responsible forest management and the dangers of wildfires is critical to preventing human-caused fires.

Combating Forest Fires

  • Public awareness campaigns: Educate the public about responsible forest management and the risk of wildfire. This can be done by implementing instructional programmes in schools and communities, distributing information booklets and posters, and using social media platforms to raise awareness.
  • Forest Management Practices: Implement measures such as controlled burns to minimise fuel loads and establish firebreaks to help prevent unintentional fires. Encourage the planting of fire-resistant trees in appropriate regions.
  • Investing in Resources: Empower forest departments with improved technology for early fire detection, such as satellite monitoring systems and drones. Firefighters should be equipped with advanced firefighting equipment such as fire engines, hoses, and personal protection gear. Educate firemen on complex firefighting procedures.
  • Strengthening enforcement: Increase the penalties for intentional fire and offences of forest fire protection legislation. Law enforcement authorities should collaborate closely with forest departments to patrol woods, prohibit unlawful activity, and apprehend those who break fire safety rules.

Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve

  • The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve was formed in 1986 in the Nilgiri Mountains of the Western Ghats and extends into Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. It includes the protected areas:
    • Mudumalai National Park, Mukurthi National Park, Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.
    • Nagarhole National Park, Bandipur National Park, both in Karnataka.
    • Silent Valley National Park, Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, and Karimpuzha Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala.
  • Its distinct ecosystems range from tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests to dry broadleaf forests, supporting a wide variety of flora and wildlife. The region receives 500 to 7,000 millimetres of rainfall per year, which helps to sustain its diverse ecosystem.
  • The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve has around 3,700 plant species, including 132 unique flowering plants. The shola forest sections are adorned with stunted evergreen trees, and tall trees serve as nesting places for enormous honey bees.
  • The protected area is home to a number of rare bird species, including the Asian elephant, Bengal tiger, and Indian leopard. It also provides a habitat for a variety of amphibians and reptiles, making a substantial contribution to India's amphibian and reptile biodiversity.

Must Read Articles:

NILGIRI TAHR:  https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/nilgiri-tahr


Q. Which of the following is not a wildlife sanctuary included within the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve?

A) Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary

B) Mukurthi National Park

C) Bandipur National Park

D) Silent Valley National Park

Answer: C