Crisis of forest fire (The Hindu)

Crisis of forest fire

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of forest fire and tragedy associated with it.

(GS paper III)



  • The forest fire in Tamil Nadu’s Theni hills that claimed the lives of 11 trekkers and severely injured many others is a heart-rending tragedy, with many of them being women who were out to celebrate International Women’s Day.


Impending questions


  • Questions are naturally being asked whether the Forest Department failed to stop treks during the February-June fire season, and whether the response to the early distress alerts was slow.


  • It appears that the difficult terrain gave many of those caught in the fire line little chance, and proved challenging for the State’s rescue operation launched in coordination with the Central government. The residents of the hills played a commendable role in aiding the effort. Yet, several families are left scarred as they try to cope with the loss of loved ones. 


Lessons to be learnt


  • The tragedy has highlighted the lack of emphasis on safety in the way such events are organised. Indeed, if there is any lesson that can be learnt from the episode, it is that such adventures should place safety above everything else, and that the government has a key role to play in evolving the protocols. In a country with rich landscapes and forests, the wish to briefly leave the urban life behind and take to the outdoors is but natural.




  • But as the trek from Kurangani to Kolukkumalai shows, there are hazards. The risk of fire is particularly important, given that 55% of forest cover in India is assessed by the Indian Space Research Organisation as being vulnerable. With constant improvements to remote sensing capabilities, and through partnerships with organisations such as the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Remote Sensing Centre has been issuing day and night fire alerts to forest departments.


  • This should have alerted the Forest Department to stop trekking tours, and the State government’s inquiry into the Theni tragedy should reveal whether it was part of the alerts system, and whether they were actually issued.


About IRNSS-1H


  • IRNSS-1H was the eighth in a series of IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite Systems) satellites launched by ISRO since July 2013. This was to create a constellation to provide satellite-based navigation services over the Indian subcontinent on the lines of the global positioning system (GPS) created by the United States.


  • The Indian navigation satellite constellation, called NavIC, essentially comprises seven satellites. IRNSS-1H was intended to replace IRNSS-1A, which developed problems last year. IRNSS-1H would have augmented “the existing seven satellites of NavIC constellation”. It was supposed to sit in a sub-Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (sub-GTO).


  • IRNSS is intended to provide two services – Standard Positioning Service for general users and a Restricted Service, which is an encrypted service only for authorised users like the defence forces. NavIC is designed to provide accurate position information services to users in India as well as the region, up to 1,500 km from the boundary. For NavIC to become ubiquitous in the subcontinent, ISRO will sell its capabilities to general positioning service providers like mobile phone manufacturers, vehicle manufacturers etc.


  • IRNSS-1H had a navigation payload and a ranging payload. The ranging payload of IRNSS satellites has a C-band transponder to determine the range of the satellite. The navigation payload is meant to transmit navigation service signals to users on earth while operating in the L5-band and S-band. Part of the navigation payload is high-accuracy RAFS clocks.


Way ahead


  • The probe should also determine whether the fires were triggered by burning of grass on the lower slopes. Ideally, the database of fires, including the GIS information, should be made available on the Internet. Also, organisers need to be trained in fire escape manoeuvres, and carry the right equipment, including wireless communication sets. Care must be taken to see that small children are not part of such groups.


  • Raising safety standards in tourism and creating safe experiences is the imperative, as more young Indians will continue to seek adventure. The importance of raising the capabilities of district hospitals has also been underscored by the disaster.


Question Explain the implications failed Government’s efforts to stop forest fires?