Fires are a widespread phenomenon in Indian forests. Most fires today are thought to be human-caused and are commonly considered to be a major cause of forest degradation. The ubiquitous occurrence of fires, despite over a century of strict fire suppression, suggests that fires potentially play an important role in people’s management of their landscapes. However, our knowledge of the causes of fires, about their extent, their effect on forest ecosystems, and their link to the goods and services that people derive from forests is extremely limited.
Without a proper understanding of the causes and effects of fire, whether ecological, socioeconomic, or cultural, it is not possible to strive for fire management that meets the livelihoods needs of forest-dependent communities while also conserving forests and biodiversity. Such understanding is essential to meet the challenge of shrinking natural resources in the present, and the challenge of climate change in the future; such understanding is also essential to arrive at negotiated tradeoffs in integrating actual fire management practices into existing forest management.
In 2007, a group of scientists and practitioners from India, Indonesia and Germany started an initiative on forest fires in India. This group is composed of people with a background of research in forest ecology and forest fires from ATREE (New Delhi, India), CIFOR (Bogor, Indonesia), Institute of Silviculture of the University of Freiburg (Germany), the Foundation for Ecological Security (Anand, India), French Institute Pondicherry (India) and the Fire Ecology and Biomass Burning Research Group, (Freiburg, Germany).