‘Fiery tale’: Fires devoured 3,86,294 ha forest in 11 years in State

Nagpur Wildlife Circle worst hit as 49,801.64 ha forest cover was destroyed in 2,831 incidents of fires

Nagpur: Incidents of fires wreaked havoc in Maharashtra as the State lost 3,86,294.793 ha of forest area in fires since the past 11 years.

The fiery data was provided by State Forest Department in response to an RTI query posed by city-based activist Abhay Kolarkar. Kolarkar had sought information regarding forest fires under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The reply filed by S A Rizvi, Public Information Officer, Desk Officer-18 (Protection) at the office of Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Head of Forest Force), says that between 2009 and 2019, there were total 47,671 incidents of forest fires in the State. In these incidents, forest cover in 3,86,294.793 hectares of area was destroyed. The information received by Kolarkar reveals that the year 2018 witnessed the highest number of forest fire incidents — 8,464. The maximum damage, however, was reported in the year 2009 when 49,409.767 hectares of forest area was destroyed. The loss caused was quantified for each of the years since 2009. As per the estimates, the highest loss of Rs 70.39 lakh was reported in the year 2018, followed by loss of Rs 66.127 lakh in 2019, and Rs 42.07 lakh in 2017.

The RTI reply further said that Nagpur Wildlife Circle bore the maximum brunt due to forest fires. From 2009 to 2019, this circle reported 2,831 incidents of forest fires, which resulted in damage to 49,801.64 hectares of forest cover. Among 14 circles, this was the highest in six years starting from 2014. Nagpur Wildlife Circle reported the highest damage throughout Maharashtra in the years 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. The year 2016 proved to be the worst with this circle suffering damage to 15,743.56 hectares of forest area in 641 incidents. The next year, in 2017, the number of incidents remained the same but destruction of forest was relatively lower at 10,034.32 hectares. In 2018, the number of incidents came down to 597 but the area destroyed increased to 11,728.01 hectares.

In Nagpur Circle (territorial), however, total 2,664 incidents of forest fires were reported from 2014. In these incidents, forest in 9,657.64 hectares of area got destroyed. Vidarbha has four more circles, apart from Nagpur Wildlife Circle and Nagpur Circle. These include Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Amravati, and Yavatmal. The total number of incidents and forest area destroyed in forest fires in these circles from 2014 to 2019 are as follows: Chandrapur — 1,322 incidents (2,958.41 hectares destroyed), Gadchiroli — 5,879 (23,533.88 hectares), Amravati – – 1,944 (16.087.93 hectares), and Yavatmal — 1,306 incidents (5,875.6 hectares).