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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fighting forest fires in India

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The subject of forest in Indian constitution is on concurrent list. It means both the Central and State governments are competent enough to legislate on the issue of forest- fires etc. Issues that relate to planning, policy making and finance are primary responsibilities of the Government of India. On the other hand field administration of forests is the responsibility of the state governments. Therefore, Prevention and Control measures are carried out by state departments of forests.

In India, forests are protected and managed through forest-working plans. The prevention and control of forest fires has always been kept on priority. The working plan for the control and prevention of forest fires are mentioned below.
·         Employing traditional practices of fire control

·         Creation and maintenance of Fire- lines- Fire lines are areas bordering a forest that are cleared from all types of vegetation and inflammable materials. Sometimes a deep trench is dug around a forest and water is allowed to fill it so that fire may not spread in adjacent areas.

·         Fire tracks are other measures to control and check the spread of fire. These are paths around forests. These paths are cleared off from all types of inflammable materials. These are kept sufficiently wide so that fire may not be allowed to spread by crossing it.

·       It is necessary for forest dwellers and those who live near forests are advised to follow controlled burning rules. 

·      Fire watchers should be employed to move around forests and to observe any accident of fire in forests. These fire watchers move around forests so that they may observe and remove fire if any around and inside the forest.
·         Villagers inhabiting forest areas and nearby land are legally supposed to assist the forest department staff in extinguishing fires. To address the extent of resource damage from uncontrolled fire, the Government of India implemented a project of United Nations Development Programme during the period from 1985 to 1990. According to UNDP report-   
Fires impact upon livelihoods, ecosystems and landscapes. Despite incomplete and inconsistent data, it is estimated that 350 million hectares burn each year; however, the nature of fires determines whether their social, cultural, environmental and economic impacts are negative or positive. Up to 90 percent of wild land fires are caused by human activities primarily through uncontrolled use of fire for clearing forest and woodland for agriculture, maintaining grasslands for livestock management, extraction of non-wood forest products, industrial development, resettlement, hunting and arson – thus any proactive fire management needs to adopt integrated, inter-sectoral, multi-stakeholder and holistic approaches. The situation varies markedly in different regions of the world.
A pilot project was launched in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra where severe fires had damaged 50 percent of the forest area. The Haldwani and Chandrapur forest fire incidents were reduced up to 90 percent through the project. An air operation wing was also formed in 1991 through which largest fire fighting technologies including helicopters and fixed wing aircrafts were being employed in the needy areas. UNDP has provided two helicopters and aircraft along with spare parts and services of these were taken extensively in the states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Delhi.

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