Vulnerability of India’s Forests to Fires


This report, issued by the Forest Survey of India, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change aims to identify forested areas in the country vulnerable to fires. The primary focus of this report is to aid the forest departments and planner in managing forest resources. Utilizing satellite sensor data, the study examines forest fire occurrences from 2004 to 2011 to assess vulnerable regions based on the frequency of fire.

The 120-page report is divided into 23 sections: Introduction (Section 1); Near Real Time Forest Fire Monitoring (Section 2); MODIS Based Web Fire Mapper (Section 3); Detection of Fire Spots by MODIS (Section 4); Data Acquisition by the Base Station and Uploading the Information to Web Fire Mapper (Section 5); Forest Fire Monitoring Undertaken by FSI (Section 6); Review of the Past Studies (Section 7); Objective of the Study (Section 8); Data, Material and the Software Used (Section 9); Methodology (Section 10); Generation of Forest Fire Points (Section 11); Historical Data of Forest Fires (Section 12); Forest Density Classes Vulnerable to Forest Fire (Section 13); Forest Type Groups Vulnerable to Forest Fire (Section 14); Forest Fire Vulnerable Toposheets Based on Forest Fire Occurrences (Section 15); Identification of Vulnerable Grids (Section 16); Creation of the 5 km Buffer around Each Fire Point (Section 17); Generation of the Vulnerable Map (Section 18); Identification of Vulnerable Districts (Section 19); Result and Discussions (Section 20); Vulnerability in Term of Time Period: State-wise Crucial Time Period (Section 21); Conclusion (Section 22); and Scope for Further Study and Analysis (Section 23).


  1. According to the report, the country experienced a total of 8,645 forest fire incidents in 2004-05, 20,567 in 2005-06, and 16,779 in 2006-07. In the following years, the incidences saw a steady rise from 17,264 in 2007-08 and 26,180 in 2008-09 to 30,892 in 2009-10 before falling to 13,898 in 2010-11.

  2. Moderately dense forests recorded 43 per cent of the total forest fire incidents (57,063), while open forest areas reported 40 per cent incidents (53,779). Very dense forests, on the other hand, reported only nine per cent of fire incidents recorded over the seven-year period. The highest number of forest fire incidents occurred in tropical dry deciduous forests, followed by tropical moist deciduous forests and tropical semi-evergreen forests.

  3. A rise in the duration of dry conditions resulting from reduced rainfall results in heightened vegetation dryness. As vegetation becomes drier, the risk of fires increases, primarily due to the heightened vulnerability of biomass to ignition.

  4. During 2009-10, fire incidence in Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Tripura and Mizoram were notably higher compared to other states.

  5. The report determines that 15 per cent of the land in the country is prone to forest fires. Of this, 6,707 square kilometres of land is highly vulnerable and 116,166 square kilometres is moderately vulnerable, the report states.

  6. The states with the highest vulnerability to forest fires are concentrated in the central and southern regions of India, mainly characterized by dry and moist deciduous forests. Additionally, the report also identifies the northeastern part of the country as susceptible to forest fires due to the cultural practice of clearing forests for agricultural purposes through tree burning.

  7. According to data collected in the report, Madhya Pradesh (38), Uttar Pradesh (28) and Maharashtra (26) had the most districts vulnerable to forest fires. The largest number of districts ‘highly vulnerable’ to forest fires were recorded in Madhya Pradesh (24), Maharashtra (18) and Andhra Pradesh (15).

  8. The vulnerability of some of the areas can be ascribed to human-induced factors, specifically the pressure exerted by human activities and the reliance of the local population on the forest.

  9. Data on the prevalence of fire incidences shows that the forest fires peak between the third week of February and the first week of May in India. The period differs a little based on the location – in the south, the fires peak between the first week of February and the first week of April whereas in the north and central regions they peak between the fourth week of February and the third week of June. In the northeastern states, the period lasts from the first week of March to the third week of April.

  10. The report notes that 32 districts in central India exhibit high susceptibility to forest fires. Based on additional data from the 2001 Census, these districts are also severely impacted by poverty, with average poverty levels ranging between 41 and 80 per cent.

    Focus and Factoids by Sainka Walia.


Forest Survey of India, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India


Forest Survey of India, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India