What are the reasons for recurrent and often catastrophic wildfires in places like Australia and United states. Are there any lessons to be learnt from these events by India. Explain.

Recently, catastrophic wildfires were observed in USA and Australia. The wildfires spanned over several months and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of animals.

Reasons behind recurrence of wildfires:

  • Basically, three things are required for any fire, heat, availability of fuel, and oxygen. In forests, dry leaves and timber provide the fuel and initial heat can be due to natural factors or anthropogenic factors as well.
  • Very dry climatic conditions and the absence of rainfall for long durations create conditions for wildfire to develop.
  • Climate change has further aggravated the risk of wildfires as heatwaves are becoming more and more common in every part of the globe.
  • Dry foliage of trees eases the spread of wildfire and due to the absence of empty open spaces in forests, there are no firebreaks.

Lessons to be learned by India:

  • Though most wildfires in India are manmade, there are significant natural wildfires as well.
  • Need for firebreaks in forests that can prevent the spread of fires in a catastrophic manner. E.g – a strip of barren land without trees to cut fire spread.
  • Need for adequate monitoring via satellite to prevent its widespread and early warning system to control
  • Adequate focus is needed on forest management, especially in dry deciduous forests.

If occurring on small scale, fires can be beneficial for soil replenishment but such large-scale fires are catastrophic and must be prevented.

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