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Forest fires to rise significantly in Odisha by 2030 due to climate change: Report


BHUBANESWAR : With climate change triggering longer and more intense heatwaves, forest fire incidents are expected to rise significantly in Odisha by 2030 with severe impact on districts like Kandhamal, Koraput, Kalahandi and Rayagada, areas having sizeable tribal population, predicts a new study.

The study by a group of geographers and environmental scientists revealed the increase in temperature in districts with high susceptibility to forest fires compounded by local practices and over-exploitation of natural resources, including water, and clearing of forests for mining, industrial, and agricultural purposes may lead to increased temperatures and reduced relative humidity conditions conducive to forest fires.

Central, southern, northwestern, northern, and some northeastern parts of Odisha, including Angul, Kandhamal, Rayagada, Kalahandi, Koraput, Sundargarh, and Mayurbhanj have been identified as very high to high forest fire susceptibility zones.

As per an analysis, the state recorded 85,307 forest fire incidents between 2001 and 2022, averaging 3,877 fires annually and showing a general upward trend in forest fire occurrences with a notable increase after 2015. Odisha is the fourth-largest state in terms of forest cover, with 52,156 sq km of forest land.

A total 28,286 forest fires were reported during 2001-2010, accounting for approximately 33.16% of the total incidents. The number significantly escalated to 57,021 between 2011 and 2022, constituting 66.84% of all recorded cases.

The northern division, encompassing Angul, Sambalpur, Sundargarh, Rayagada, Kandhamal, Kalahandi, Gajapati, Koraput, and Malkangiri, along with Mayurbhanj in the southern division consistently showed higher incidences of forest fires. Angul district emerges as the most affected area, having recorded 14,009 incidents in past 22 years. In the fire season from January to May, on an average the highest 1,463 incidents were recorded in March with a record-breaking 4,236 forest fires in March 2021 alone. The pre-monsoon season, spanning January to May, accounted for 67.73% of the total forest fires in the state.

Researchers have suggested constitution of a committee on the lines of successful global disaster response frameworks to coordinate efforts and allocate resources effectively.