The forest fires beyond Uttarakhand

In the last five years, 12 states have seen more forest fires than Uttarakhand. A data interactive of 102,527 forest fires by time and location


The forest fires ravaging Uttarakhand this year have been widely reported. Less reported are the 20,000 or so forest fires that enflame many other parts of India every year between February and June, partly because of rising temperatures and agricultural practice of shifting cultivation, before the rains arrive.

The data interactive below maps the number of forest fires by date and location, as reported by the Forest Survey of India, between 2012 and 2016. In all, that’s 102,527 forest fires till May 1, 2016.

In the last five years, 2012 saw the maximum incidents of forest fires, though 2016 is running close. Typically, forest fires peak in March: in the last five years, the month accounted for between 46% and 66% of forest fire incidents, and was particularly bad in 2012. The number of incidents tends to fall in April, but 2016 has been an exception on that front.

Although Uttarakhand has seen a spike in forest fires in both high-count years, 2012 and 2016, there are 12 states that have registered more forest fires than it in the last five years. Large parts of the northeast (where the practice of shifting cultivation is common) and Odisha are affected every year, as are parts of Central India. In the last five years, the states to have registered the maximum number of forest incidents are Odisha (10,636), Mizoram (10,335), Assam (9,602), Chhattisgarh (9,210) and Maharashtra (7,534).

As many as seven of the top 15 districts by forest fire incidents are in the northeast. The top five are Karbi Anglong in Assam (4,166), Dantewada in Chhattisgarh (3,631), Aizawl in Mizoram (3,535), Gadchiroli in Maharashtra (3,485), and Dima Hasao in Assam (3,464).

Note: This story has been updated from its original version to correct certain inaccuracies in the data

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