14th January 2021


A) Art, Culture and History

1. Indian New Years (PIB)

B) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

2. Organisations in news: APEDA and IFAD (PIB)

C) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues

3. Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) (PIB)

4. Polio immunisation drive postponed (TH)

D) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

5. SC takes cognisance of contamination of rivers (TH)

6. Forest Fires in India: Causes, Effects and Spread (IE)

E) Miscellaneous

7. CollabCAD Software (PIB)

A) Art, Culture and History

1. Indian New Years (PIB)

Context: The Prime Minister greeted people on the occasion of Lohri and Pongal.


  • New Year is celebrated all across the world on January 1. This, however, is in accordance with the Gregorian calendar.
  • It’s the harvesting season which is mostly synonymous with the new year celebrations in India.
  • Being a diverse nation, new year in India is celebrated in various regions at various times of the year depending on solar or lunar calendars.
  • As per the solar calendar, the new year is celebrated during the spring harvest time on April 13/14/15 as Vaisakhi or Baisakhi in north and central India, Rongali Bihu in Assam, Tamil Putthandu in Tamil Nadu, Vishu in Kerala, Bishuva Sankranti in Odisha and Poila Boishakh in Bengal.
  • As per the lunar calendar, new year is celebrated in various parts of India during March/April.
  1. Ugadi is the New Year’s Day for the Hindus of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana.
  2. Gudi Padwa is celebrated in Maharashtra, Goa and Konkan belt as new year.
  3. Sajibu Cheiraoba in Manipur, Navreh in Kashmir and Cheti Chand is celebrated by Sindhi Hindus as new year.
  4. In Gujarat, Bestu Varas is celebrated around October/November time as new year.

Difference Between the Lunar Calendar & the Solar Calendar

  • The difference between the lunar calendar and the solar calendar is the celestial body used to measure the passage of time.
  • The lunar calendar uses the phases of the moon to measure time, usually measuring the time from new moon to new moon as one month.
  • The time required for the Earth to rotate around the Sun is one solar year.
  • The solar calendar typically measures the time between vernal equinoxes.

Some major harvest festivals of India


  • Baisakhi Festival falls on April 14th and marks the beginning of the solar year in Punjab/Haryana.
  • For farmers of these States, Baisakhi marks the time for harvest of rabi crops. 
  • Baisakhi has special significance for Sikhs as on this day in 1699, their tenth Guru Gobind Singh Ji organized the order of the Khalsa.

Bihu: Assam

  • Bihu is the national festival of Assam celebrated three times in a year, Maagh Bihu in January, Bohaag Bihu in April and Kaati Bihu in October.
  • Rongali Bihu or Bohag Bihu is the major among the other and most popular Bihu festival celebrated as the Assamese New Year in mid April along with Spring season.

Hareli and Cher-Chera: Chhattisgarh

Vishu and Onam: Kerala

  • The ancient festival (Onam) has a significance of homecoming of the legendary Emperor Mahabali and harvest of rice and rain flowers in Kerala.

Nuakhai/Nabanna: Odisha

Kut: By Kuki-Chin tribes of Manipur

  • Tokhu Emong: By the tribes of Lotha Nagas
  • Pongal: Tamil Nadu
  • Bhogi: Andhra Pradesh
  • Uttarayan: Gujarat, Associated with flying of colourful kites
  • Navroz: Parsis in India celebrate New Year or Navroz.

B) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

2. Organisations in news: APEDA and IFAD (PIB)

Context: The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) in association with Andhra Pradesh Drought Mitigation Project (APDMP), an externally aided project funded by International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), organized a Virtual Buyer Seller Meet with Millet Exporters and FPOs of Millet for establishing marketing linkages.


Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA)

  • The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) is a statutory body established under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • The Authority replaced the Processed Food Export Promotion Council (PFEPC).

Some of the important Functions are:

  • In accordance with the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act, 1985, (2 of 1986) the following functions have been assigned to the Authority.
  • Development of industries relating to the scheduled products for export by way of providing financial assistance or otherwise;
  • Registration of persons as exporters of the scheduled products on payment of such fees as may be prescribed;
  • Fixing of standards and specifications for the scheduled products for the purpose of exports;
  • Carrying out inspection of meat and meat products in slaughter houses, processing plants, storage premises etc.;
  • Improving of packaging and marketing of the Scheduled products.

APEDA is mandated with the responsibility of export promotion and development of the following scheduled products:

  1. Fruits, Vegetables and their Products.
  2. Meat and Meat Products.
  3. Poultry and Poultry Products.
  4. Dairy Products.
  5. Confectionery, Biscuits and Bakery Products.
  6. Honey, Jaggery and Sugar Products.
  7. Cocoa and its products, chocolates of all kinds.
  8. Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Beverages.
  9. Cereal and Cereal Products.
  10. Groundnuts, Peanuts and Walnuts.
  11. Pickles, Papads and Chutneys.
  12. Guar Gum.
  13. Floriculture and Floriculture Products.
  14. Herbal and Medicinal Plants.
  • In addition to this, APEDA has been entrusted with the responsibility to monitor import of sugar.

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

  • International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), United Nations (UN) specialized agency that supports increased food production in poor communities.
  • Partly in response to severe famines in the southern Sahara in the early 1970s, the 1974 World Food Conference adopted a resolution that established IFAD in November 1977.
  • The organization is headquartered in Rome, Italy.
  • IFAD’s mandate is to provide funding and other resources for programs that help poor farmers and pastoralists as well as landless and indigenous peoples in rural areas.

C) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues

3. Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) (PIB)

Context: Renowned physiologist and sports science expert Dr. Genadijus Sokolovas will be visiting the National Swimming camp being conducted at CSE Bangalore between January 11 and February 21 this year for a period of 6 days. 

  • The overall cost of Dr. Sokolovas’ visit will be covered by the Target Olympic Podium Scheme.


  • In order to improve India’s performance at Olympics and Paralympics, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports started the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) in September 2014; revamped in April 2018.
  • The scheme has been extending all requisite support to probable athletes (not all athletes) identified for the Tokyo-2021, Paris-2024 and Los Angles-2028 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games including foreign training, monthly stipend etc.
  • High priority category of sports discipline has been identified to put focus on and incentivize those sports disciplines played in the Olympics in which India has won medals in the last conducted Asian Games as well as Commonwealth Games or in which India has good chance of winning medals in the upcoming Olympics of 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (Los Angeles). 
  • Presently, nine sports disciplines viz., (i) Athletics, (ii) Badminton (iii) Hockey (iv) Shooting (v) Tennis (vi) Weightlifting (vii) Wrestling, (viii) Archery and (ix) Boxing have been categorised as ‘High Priority’.
  • Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) covers the junior and sub-junior athletes also.

4. Polio immunisation drive postponed (TH)

Context: The Union Health Ministry has postponed the polio immunisation drive scheduled from January 17 till further notice, citing unforeseen activities.

  • While the COVID-19 vaccination starts on January 16, the National Immunisation Day (NID), commonly known as Pulse Polio Immunisation programme, was scheduled for January 17 across India.


Universal Immunization Program (UIP)

  • Full immunization against preventable childhood diseases is the right of every child.
  • With a view to provide this right to every child, the Government of India launched the Universal Immunization Program (UIP) in 1985.
  • India’s Universal Immunisation Programme (U.I.P.) is one of the largest in the world in terms of:
  1. Quantities of vaccine used,
  2. The number of beneficiaries,
  3. The number of Immunisation session organised,
  4. The geographical spread and diversity of areas covered.
  • The UIP provides free of cost vaccines to all children across the country to protect them against 12 life threatening diseases.
  • These twelve vaccine preventable diseases are Tuberculosis, Pertussis, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Hepatitis B, Polio, Pneumonia and Meningitis due to Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib), Measles, Rubella, Rotavirus diarrhoea and Japanese Encephalitis (JE).
  • Rubella, JE and Rotavirus vaccine are given in select states and districts.
  • Despite being operational for over 30 years, UIP has been able to fully immunize only 65% children in the first year of their life and the increase in coverage was stagnated in the past 5 years (before 2014) to an average of 1% every year.

Mission Indradhanush 

  • To accelerate the process of immunization by covering 5% and more children every year, Indradhanush mission was adopted.
  • Mission Indradhanush aims to ensure that at least 90% of the children under the age of two years and pregnant women, who are either unvaccinated, or are partially vaccinated against vaccine preventable diseases, are fully immunized with all available vaccines by 2020.
  • Mission Indradhanush does not target to reduce post-natal death rate but targets to reduce diseases and death due to vaccine preventable diseases.

Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI)

  • It is a supplemental aggressive action plan to cover all left outs and drop outs in select districts and urban areas with low routine immunization coverage to achieve the target of more than 90% coverage in a specific time-frame (December 2018).
  • Mission Indradhanush is under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Measles-Rubella Vaccination Campaign India

  • Measles and Rubella are highly contagious viral diseases that are spread by contact with an infected person through coughing and sneezing.
  • Measles weakens the immune system of the body.
  1. Hence infection with Measles often leads to serious complications that include blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhoea and severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
  2. Most measles-related deaths are caused by complications associated with the disease.
  1. Children below five years are prone to the infection and one-third of all measles-related deaths worldwide occur in India.
  2. Vitamin A is key to immune system function, and children with VAD are more likely to contract common illnesses like measles than children without a deficiency.
  1. Children with VAD are also more likely to die from respiratory and diarrheal diseases.
  2. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD), affecting one-third of children in the world under age 5, is the leading cause of childhood blindness. 
  3. Golden rice is a variety of rice produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A.
  4. Golden Rice is a textbook example of biofortification, genetically engineered to contain high levels of the vitamin A precursor beta-carotene.
  • Rubella is a mild viral infection that occurs most often in children and young adults.
  • Infection with Rubella may be associated with swelling of lymph nodes and joint pain.
  • Rubella infection during pregnancy can cause abortion, stillbirth and may lead to multiple birth defects in the new born; like blindness, deafness, heart defects; known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS).
  • India accounts for around one third of all children born worldwide with congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).
  • No specific treatment is available for measles and rubella but these diseases can easily be prevented by vaccination.
  • India, along with ten other WHO South East Asia Region member countries, have resolved to eliminate measles and control rubella/congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) by 2020.
  • In this direction, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has initiated measles-rubella (MR) vaccination campaign in the age group of 9 months to less than 15 years in a phased manner across the nation. 
  • The purpose of the Measles-Rubella campaign is to protect children and eliminate transmission of Measles and Rubella from the community by vaccinating 100% target children with MR vaccine.
  • The conduct of Measles-Rubella vaccination campaigns was an important factor in achieving measles elimination in the Western Hemisphere (2002), and the elimination of indigenous rubella in 2009.
  • The campaign dose will be administered to all children falling between the age group of 9 months to less than 15 years of age, irrespective of any past history of disease or vaccination.
  • India has already beaten smallpox, polio, maternal and neonatal tetanus and, very recently, yaws.
  1. India was the first country in the world to become YAWS-free.
  2. This accomplishment is significant as India has achieved the milestone of being YAWS-free much before the WHO global target year of 2020.
  3. YAWS is a kind of bacterial infection that affects skin, bones and joints.  
  • Elimination of measles will contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal’s target 3.2 which, among others, aims to end preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age by 2030.

Why is inactivated polio virus vaccine (IPV) now been introduced when India has already eradicated polio?

  • Although India has been declared polio free, wild poliovirus is still present in neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • The poliovirus can be imported by travellers across countries.
  • Till such time as the poliovirus is not eradicated from all the countries of the world, the threat of re-emergence and re-infection of polio remains.
  • This is an important step towards global; eradication of polio which is being implemented in all countries.
  • 2014: No Wild Polio virus case was reported from the country for the last three years and India had a historic achievement and was certified as “polio free country” along with other South East Asia Region (SEAR) countries of WHO.

D) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

5. SC takes cognisance of contamination of rivers (TH)

  • The Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of the contamination of rivers by sewage effluents through lapses committed by municipalities, saying “open surface water resources including rivers are the lifeline of human civilisation”.


Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Environmental Jurisprudence

  • CPCB is a statutory organisation constituted under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • Further, CPCB was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests for the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Principal functions of the CPCB are:

  1. To promote cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas of the States by prevention, control and abatement of water pollution, and
  2.  To improve the quality of air and to prevent, control or abate air pollution in the country.
  • One of the mandates of CPCB is to collect, collate and disseminate technical and statistical data relating to water pollution.
  • Ambient air quality refers to the condition or quality of air surrounding us in the outdoors.
  • National Ambient Air Quality Standards are the standards for ambient air quality set by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that is applicable nationwide.
  • The CPCB has been conferred this power by the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

More river stretches are critically polluted: Central Pollution Control Board

  • The CPCB, since the 1990s, has a programme to monitor the quality of rivers primarily by measuring BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand), which is a proxy for organic pollution — the higher it is, the worse the river.
  • The health of a river and the efficacy of water treatment measures by the States and municipal bodies are classified depending on BOD, with a BOD greater than or equal to 30 mg/l termed ‘priority 1,’ while that between 3.1-6 mg/l is ‘priority 5.’
  • The CPCB considers a BOD less than 3 mg/l an indicator of a healthy river.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is BOD?

  • The Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) is a measure of the oxygen required by aerobic (requiring oxygen) micro-organisms to biochemically oxidize the organic matter present in the waste and is expressed in mg/l.

What is Environmental Protection Charge (EPC) & who has to pay EPC?

  • In 2016, the Supreme Court imposed Environment Protection Charge (EPC) of 1% on the sale of 2000cc and above diesel cars which will be registered in Delhi-NCR.

What is PUC?

  • PUC (Pollution Under Control) is a Certification Mark issued to certify that motor vehicles in India meet emission and pollution control norms.
  • After the expiry of period of one year from the date of first registration, every motor vehicle is required to carry a valid PUC Certificate & subsequently after every six months.

What is eutrophication?

  • Eutrophication is the process of the excessive increase in nutrients, such as phosphate and nitrate, in water due to the direct depositing of non-treated sewage.

What are the criteria to identify an industry under grossly polluting industry (GPI) category?

  • GPIs were identified as Industries discharging effluents into a water course and a) handling hazardous substances, or b) effluent having BOD load of 100 Kg per day or more, or c) a combination of (a) and (b).

What is CEPI?

  • A Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), which is a rational number to characterize the environmental quality at a given location following the algorithm of source, pathway and receptor have been developed.
  • The index captures the various health dimensions of environment including air, water and land.

What is CPA?

  • CPA Stands for Critically Polluted Areas.
  • It means the areas where the pollution level is more than 70 %.

What is NAMP?

  • National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP) is a nation-wide programme for monitoring of ambient air quality.
  • CPCB has established a NAMP which presently comprises of 614 monitoring stations covering 257 cities in 29 states & 5 UTs.
  • Under NAMP three major pollutants viz. PM10 (Particulate Matter having an aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to 10 µm), Sulphur dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) have been identi?ed for regular monitoring at all locations.

What is NWMP?

  • National water Quality Monitoring Programme (NWMP) is a nation-wide programme for monitoring of water quality.
  • CPCB in collaboration with concerned SPCBs/PCCs established a nationwide network of water quality monitoring comprising 2500 stations in 28 States and 6 Union Territories.

How many critically polluted areas have been identified?

  • The Central Pollution Control Board in consultation with State Pollution Control Boards has identified 24 areas in the country as critically polluted areas.

    These are:
  1. Bhadravati (Karnataka),
  2. Chembur (Maharashtra),
  3. Digboi (Assam),
  4. Govindgarh (Punjab),
  5. Greater Cochin (Kerala),
  6. Kala-Amb (Himachal Pradesh),
  7. Parwanoo (Himachal Pradesh),
  8. Korba (Madhya Pradesh),
  9. Manali (Tamil Nadu),
  10. North Arcot (Tamil Nadu),
  11. Pali (Rajasthan),
  12. Talcher (Orissa),
  13. Vapi (Gujarat),
  14. Visakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh),
  15. Dhanbad (Bihar),
  16. Durgapur (West Bengal),
  17. Howrah (West Bengal),
  18. Jodhpur (Rajasthan),
  19. Nagda- Ratlam (Madhya Pradesh),
  20. Najafgarh Drain (Delhi),
  21. Patancheru Bollaram (Andhra Pradesh),
  22. Singrauli (Madhya Pradesh),
  23. Ankleshwar (Gujarat),
  24. Tarapur (Maharashtra)

What are the measures for control of noise pollution?

  • Ambient standards in respect of noise for different categories of areas (residential, commercial, industrial) and silence zones have been notified under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • Noise limits have been prescribed for automobiles, domestic appliances and construction equipment at the manufacturing stage.
  • Standards have been evolved and notified for the gen sets, fire crackers and coal mines.

What steps have been taken to control noise pollution due to loud-speakers?

  • The Govt. of India has enacted Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000 vide S.O.123(E), dated 14th February, 2000.
  • The Rule deals with provisions to control noise pollution due to loud-speakers and public address system, as given below:
  1. A loud speaker or a public address system shall not be used except after obtaining written permission from the authority.
  2. A loud speaker or a public address system shall not be used at night (between 10.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.) except in closed premises for communication within e.g. auditoria, conference rooms, community halls and banquet halls.

What are the 17 Categories of the major polluting industries?

  1. Aluminium Smelter
  2. Caustic Soda
  3. Cement
  4. Copper Smelter
  5. Distilleries
  6. Dyes & Dye Intermediates
  7. Fertilizer
  8. Integrated Iron & Steel
  9. Tanneries
  10. Pesticides
  11. Petrochemicals
  12. Drugs & Pharmaceuticals
  13. Pulp & Paper
  14. Oil Refineries
  15. Sugar
  16. Thermal Power Plants
  17. Zinc Smelter

What are the incentives to the industries for pollution control?

  • Commissioning of the stand-by power supply systems by chlor-alkali plants reduce mercury emission due to power failures.
  • Introduction of blending system for coal homogenisation in cement plants.
  • Conversion of single hood to the double hood system in copper smelters to reduce the fugitive emissions
  • Biomethanation of the effluents in distilleries.
  • Solar evaporation ponds in small-scale water polluting units not having Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs) in the proximity.
  • Conversion of the open hearth furnaces (OHF) to the basic oxygen furnaces (BOF) and introduction of the dry system (instead of wet) for the quenching of the hot coke in iron & steel plants
  • Commissioning of chemical recovery plants (CRPs) by pulp & paper industries; and

Environment Authorities

  • In addition to Pollution Control Boards, 5 Environmental Authorities have been constituted under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.

    These are:
  1. The Central Ground Water Authority – Aqua Culture Authority
  2. Dahanu Taluka Environment (Protection) Authority
  3. Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority for National Capital Region of Delhi
  4. Loss of Ecology (Prevention and Payment of Compensation) Authority for State of Tamil Nadu.
  5. National Environment Appellate Authority,1997

What are the laws enforced by of the Pollution Control Boards?

  • The Central and State Pollution Control Boards were set up for enforcement of the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. 
  • Over the years, the Boards have been assigned additional responsibilities which include the following:
  1. Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Cess Act, 1977.
  2. Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
  3. Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and Rules made thereunder
  4. Hazardous Waste (Management & Handling) Rules1989.
  5. Manufacture, storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989
  6. Bio-medical Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 1998
  7. Municipal Solid Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2000.
  8. Plastic wastes Rules, 1999
  9. Coastal Regulation Zone Rules, 1991
  10. Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991

Environmental Jurisprudence

  • The Supreme court in Vellore Citizens Welfare Forum v. Union of India case reiterated and declared in unequivocal terms that ‘the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle’ are part of the environmental jurisprudence of this country.
  • These principles have been accepted as a part of the law of the land as article 21 of the Constitution of India guaranteed the protection of life and personal liberty.
  • There is also a constitutional mandate to protect and improve the environment under articles 47, 48-A and 51-A (g).
  • Article 47. The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except from medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health.
  • Article 48A. The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country.
  • Article 51A(g). To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.
  • Apart from the constitutional mandate to protect and improve the environment there are plenty of post-independence legislations on the subject but more relevant enactments for our purpose are: The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 (the Water Act), The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 (the Air Act) and the Environment Protection Act 1986 (the Environment Act).

6. Forest Fires in India: Causes, Effects and Spread (IE)

Context: Forest fires in Himachal Pradesh.


  • The Forest Survey of India’s data on forest fire attribute around 50% of the forest areas as fire prone. However, only 6.17% of the forests are prone to severe fire damage. 
Fig: Map of India showing the districts with regular interval of forest fire
  • A large fraction of India’s deciduous and semi-deciduous forests is characterized by open and frequently burned stands.
  1. To reduce water stress, the deciduous trees shed their leaves during the dry season.
  2. These fuels, together with the grass layer, allow the development of low- and medium-intensity surface fires almost every year.
  3. The Himalayan regions and the dry deciduous forests of India, particularly in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Odisha are ecologically sensitive areas and are most affected by these fires.
  • India’s monsoons are largely responsible for the seasonal nature of forest fires in the country.
  • For most of India, forest fires peak during the dry months of March or April before the arrival of the monsoon.

Forest fires result from a combination of natural and social factors. The forest fire triangle in figure 1.3 illustrates how these factors are interrelated. 

  • Local topography influences the difficulty of fire prevention and suppression and can raise the potential for out-of-control fires.
  1. Moving up steep slopes, fires can spread at several times the rate they would on level ground.
  2. Winds in rugged terrain can change direction quickly or blow harder, and fuels may dry out faster on south-facing slopes.
  • By comparison with dry deciduous forests, there is a greater potential for intense fire behaviour in India’s subtropical pine forests. Pine needles degrade slowly and have a high resin content.

More specifically the causes of forest fires in India are:

  • Natural Causes:
  1. Lightening
  2. Rubbing of dry sticks
  3. Friction due to rolling stones
  • Man- Made Causes:
  1. Shifting Cultivation
  2. Covering up Illicit felling of trees
  3. Clearing path through the forest
  4. Tribal Traditions

The following are among the advantages of natural forest fires:

  1. Wildfires are sometimes a natural process, and help forests by promoting flowering, branching and seedling establishment.
  2. Fires that are limited to the surface may help in the natural regeneration of forests.
  3. The heating of the soil may result in helpful microbial activity, and hasten decaying processes that are useful for the vegetation.
  4. Fire helps revive dormant seeds of many species.
  5. Some young woody trees survive ground fires and have higher growth rates immediately post-fire, until they reach a certain height.
  6. Fires helps suppressing invasive species.
  7. Bandipur National Park in Karnataka experienced large-scale forest fires recently.

The following are among the disadvantages of forest fires:

  1. Forest fires are one of the most important causes of land degradation that lead to biodiversity loss, deforestation and desertification processes.
  2. Wildfires release chlorine-containing compounds. Some of these can reach the ozone layer, and cause photocatalytic ozone depletion.
  3. Forest fires and volcanic eruptions are the largest producer of dioxins in the world.
  4. Dioxins are carcinogenic bio-accumulative toxins, that are able to persist in the environment for a prolonged period of time.

Forest Fire Alert System

  • The Forest Fire Alert System is part of the Large Forest Fire Monitoring Programme that was launched by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) in January 2019 using near real time data from the SNPP-VIIRS satellite.
  • Fully automated Forest Fire Alert System 3.0 disseminates its alert system for 20 states at beat level and 2 states at Range level. In case of the rest of the States/UT’s, alerts are sent up to District level in the absence of Administrative boundary information from State Forest Departments.
  • Forest Survey of India has been using spatial information (MODIS and SNPPVIIRS sensors on-board Aqua and Terra Satellites of NASA) to find and report forest fires in the nascent stage and provide quick and reliable signals to SFDs and general public to initiate preventive measures at their end.
  • Each of the MODIS satellites has two passes over India daily.
  • The Draft Forest Policy, 2018, does mention forest fires as a threat and has proposed the mapping of vulnerable areas along with developing and strengthening early warning systems.
  • Uncontrolled fires are a complex problem that require a comprehensive and long-term policy. This requires more effective coordination with local communities — the primary forest users in India. It demands proper co-ordination mechanisms between the state governments, the forest departments, and the MoEF&CC.
  • These fires should be treated as disasters so that disaster management authorities can play a major role in preventing them.
  • The National Forest Commission of 2006 too suggested that all fires that burn an area larger than 20 sq km, should be declared a state disaster.
  • The new Real Time Forest Alert System of India, that lists potential fire spots across the country, must be taken seriously by the state forest departments.

India State of Forest Report (ISFR), 2019 and Forest fires

  • About 21.40% of forest cover in India is highly to extremely fire prone, with forests in the north-eastern region and central India being the most vulnerable, the 2019 report by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) has said.
  • The forest fire points (FFP) were analysed using a moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS).
  • The analysis showed that extremely fire prone areas account for 3.89% of total forest cover, very highly fire prone areas account for 6.01% and highly fire prone areas for 11.50%. Together, the three categories come to 21.40 % of forest cover.
  • The seven States of the north-eastern region accounted for about one-third of fire alerts in the country.
  • Mizoram, a small State, recorded the highest number of fire alerts.
  • One of the major reasons for forest fires in the north-east is slash-and-burn cultivation, commonly called jhoom or jhum cultivation. The fires happen between the months of January and March.
  • The north-east has tropical evergreen forests and, unlike the dry deciduous forests of central India, these are not likely to catch fire easily.
  • In India, most forest fires are restricted to the forest floor and are well controlled by beating the fire with the help of the local community.
  • As per the data from the National Forest Inventory program of FSI, 9.89% of forest areas are heavily affected and 54.40% mildly affected due to forest fires.
  • Therefore, almost two thirds of our forest areas are vulnerable to forest fires.
  • Forest fires are difficult to predict in advance, as almost all fires are caused by people in our country, unlike the case in many Western countries.

The forest types most affected by fires: