General Studies Paper 3 (Ecology & Environment) : Disaster Management – Forest Fires

Disaster Management - Forest Fires

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Syllabus: General Studies Paper 3 (Ecology & Environment)

Discuss the institutional strategies and their effectiveness in addressing forest fires as part of disaster  management ( 10 Marks)


The most common hazard in forests is forests fire. They pose a threat not only to the forest wealth but also to the entire regime to fauna and flora seriously disturbing the bio-diversity and the ecology and environment of a region. Forests fires are as old as the forests themselves. Natural fires and manmade coexisted in equilibrium with ecosystems for centuries, but the continuous increment in pressure on forests and unmanaged fire caused by stakeholders, has led to adverse consequences for the diversity and structure of forests. Recent massive forest fire in western ghats has destroyed about 2,500 hectares of forest area and wildfire, while nearly 1,200 hectares of land is partially burnt. A vast fire in northern California Yosemite National Park has destroyed 50 sqkm (more than 12,000 acres).


Taking into the seriousness of the forest fire disaster, many steps have been taken by Government of India to address these issues.

  • Indian Forest Act of 1927: according to the act which considered the setting of fires a punishable offence. Yet, even today, almost a century later, fire continues to be an annual phenomenon in almost all Indian forests.
  • National Forest Policy , 1952: According to this policy the State shall be endeavouring to protect and to improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country and the citizens are to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers , wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures .
  • National Forest Policy was amended in 1988.: This amended policy presents a visionary strategy for future forest conservation and management, laying emphasis on protection of forest against encroachment, fire and grazing.
  • National Guidelines on forest fires: which was issued to all states in 2000, stressed the importance of community involvement in forest fire prevention and control through the Joint Forest Management (JFM) Program.
  • National plan for forest fire management 2010: In continuation of its efforts to effectively deal the forest fire issues, Government of India has made essential provisions in National Forest Policy.


The main objectives of the National Plan for Forest Fire Management are:

  • Forest Risk Zonation and mapping
  • Prevention of forest fires
    • Effective communication strategy for awareness generation
    • Capacity building for communities
  • Increasing the resilience of forests to fires
  • Forest floor biomass management
  • Forest fire preparedness
  • Digitization of forest boundaries
    • Promoting greater adoption of the Forest Fire Alert System:
    • Improving Ground based Detection
    • Strengthening engagement with local communities:
  • Fire suppression through training of staff
  • Post fire management
  • Coordination with other agencies
  • A strong central component for the development of an Early Warning Fire Forecasting System using satellite data and Fire Danger Rating System for early detection of Forest fire has been introduced.


Though there are many initiatives taken for forest fire management, still the forest fire management in India lacks a systematic and scientific approach. Some of the key gaps in the strategies are

  • Lack of appropriate policy and planning to tackle forest fire
  • Lack of proper Institutional mechanism: In general forest fire management in the country is looked after by the forest department. There is no institutional mechanism available within the forest department, with sole responsibility of fire management.
  • Emphasis on response and not on prevention: Very less importance is given to other issues i.e. mitigation, preparedness, human resource development, providing scientific input, awareness creation, etc.
  • Not proper scientific approach to collect fire data and document it for forest fire management
  • Not many initiatives to involve local community
  • Lack of proper contingency plan and rehearsal/ drills for fire suppression
  • Poor early warning system
  • Lack of preventive and preparedness measures to ensure better response
  • Lack of coordination: The coordination of forest department with other agencies, whose support may be very important in forest fire management, is very poor.


Way forward:

To make the forest fire management strategies successful and meet the objectives, there is need to have a systematic strategic planning.

  • Training and Education– Designing syllabus for planning, management, ground level fire fighting courses in Forestry Institutions.
  • Strengthening of organizational framework- Though appropriate modification and alteration in State Forest Departments’ structural framework and providing sufficient human power.
  • Research and development: by strengthening the existing and introducing new R&D institutions dealing with forest fire management.
  • International coordination and transfer of technology: Organising seminars, training programs, conferences, and study tours in different countries leading in Forest Fire Management
  • Effective fire fighting tools and machinery: Provision of modern and effective tools and machinery e.g. Fire Beater, Forest Fire Showel, Pulaskis Tool.
  • Financial support to States: provision of Aids/Loans from GOI to States/UT’s according to their action plan for Systematic Forest Fire Management.
  • Promotion of people’s participation: Through involvement of NGOs, Voluntary Organisations, Village Forest Committees (VFCs) etc.
  • Creation of a national forest fire control board: With the task of supervising the control of devastating forest fire in exigencies in fragile areas like Himalayan zone, Western Ghats etc.



 Forest fires are today a leading cause of forest degradation in India. Forest fire prevention and management (FFPM) at the national, state and local levels, underscoring the need for a comprehensive national policy and guidelines. There is a need of modern technology, policy, setting up of forestry institutions, increasing the capacity of workforce, community engagement. all these can help to combat the issue of forest fire and save forest for future generations.


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