In the last few years, the world have seen ravaging incidents of forest fires like the Amazon forest fire. The Australian bush fire is the most recent incident of such devastation.
The Amazon rainforest, which has highest biodiversity in the world, is home to around 30% of the world known species, and around 390 billion trees of around 16000 different species. It is shared by eight countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname. But 60% of region comes under Brazil. Interestingly, it produces 20% of the world’s oxygen.
In the Amazon, forest fires are a seasonal incident. It happens every year in dry summers due to slash and burn techniques used by farmers to occupy forest land for cultivation, but it went out of control last year, burning approximately 906000 hectares (9060 sq km). The data available about the Amazon was totally based on satellite imagery. So, an estimation of loss of animal species wasn’t conducted. The world didn’t do anything to deal with it, should such incidents happen again.
And unfortunately, it happened again. In the case of the Australian bush fire, the figures were more heart-wrenching. According to ecologists from the University of Sydney, 29 people are dead and approximately 1 billion animals have been estimated to be killed. Around 1 million hectare of forest land and thousands of homes have been destroyed.
We all saw pictures of burnt animal bodies and videos of animals running for help.
The scenes were apocalyptic, and it happened all due to rise in global temperature, it was 1.4 degrees Celsius in the Australian region in 2019. Scientists have warned that if this rise in global temperature continues and reaches 2 degrees Celsius, the results will be more catastrophic and irreversible.
The amount of CO2 emission from these wildfires will result in an instant increase in global temperature. As nations, we all have made boundaries with each other but the environment and surrounding air which we all breathe has no boundary. Directly or indirectly, such atmospheric destruction in one region will surely affect lives of all the humans, animal species living on this planet.
The need is to take such incident of forest fires seriously and discuss this matter extensively at United Nations Climate Change Conferences that happen every year. It is required to make an organisation at a global level, comprising officials from various countries to deal with the climate crisis.
Each and every country has to realise that these incidents will not end, it will continue to happen. As the temperature continues to rise globally, we will see many more such incidents in the coming years. The need of the hour is to unite and solve the problem with responsibility.
In February 2019, a massive fire broke out in Bandipur National Park, Karnataka. With the help of an ISRO satellite, it was found that 4400 hectares of forest was burnt, no estimation of animals being killed was done so far.
In Uttarakhand, fire breaks out in the dense pine forests of Kumaon every year but it came into notice in 2016, when 4100 hectares of forest land was burnt.
In both incidents, the state government called in the NDRF and IAF Mig-17 helicopters were used to drop water in the burning areas. The problem here is that our National Disaster Relief Force is not enough equipped to deal with forest fire like situations and dropping water from helicopter doesn’t help much when you have deal with such vast swathes of land.
We need to take forest fires seriously and after assessment, invest more in our National Disaster Relief Force and State Disaster Relief Force, to give them modern equipment and training. Perhaps, doing so with other countries which have expertise in such situations and conducting it on a year on year basis will help.
State governments and the central government can buy Boeing 747 supertankers, which have a capacity of carrying 74,000 litres of fire retardant or water, which is being used by several other countries like Australia, USA, Israel, etc. in controlling forest fires.
We must have one such supertanker aircraft. I hope this reaches to the authorities and they will learn from fires, which are now global incidents, to take decisive steps in this regard.