Strongly emphasizing that more and more people will have to be involved to make managing of forest fires into a mass movement, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan has said that forest fire management is part of our long-term vision for Sustainable Forest Management.
Speaking at the release of a report titled “Strengthening Forest Fire Management in India”, here today, Dr. Harsh Vardhan affirmed that the recommendations suggested in the report must be implemented effectively.
He added that once the recommendations are implemented, there should be a significant reduction in the incidence of forest fires.
The Minister also suggested that the Ministry of Science & Technology also be involved on the issue of fighting forest fires.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan also pointed out that various recommendations in the study report will be worth, only if they are followed up by a proactive and aggressive strategy.
The Minister stressed that forest fire is one of the causes of emission of carbon dioxide that leads to global warming.
“Hence, the report is a timely action guided by the vision of the Prime Minister, Mr.Narendra Modi to meet India’s climate goals defined under the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs) set under the Paris Agreement”, the Minister said.
He advocated the institution of recognition or awards to infuse a healthy competition among state forest departments.
‘It is for the first time in the history of the country that such a step has been taken under the visionary leadership of the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi”, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said.
Speaking on the occasion, Country Director for India (World Bank) Dr. Junaid Kamal Ahmad said that forest fires are a challenge across many countries and lead to the loss of lives and livelihoods for people directly dependent on forest produce.
A presentation made during the meeting emphasised that forest fires have distinct regional patterns, with 20 districts (not the same ones) account for 47% of fire distribution.
The presentation also pointed out that forest fires are caused by a combination of natural and social factors. The report discusses policies on forest fire prevention and management and underscores the need to put more emphasis on better fire prevention practices and a well-equipped and trained workforce to fight fires.
The report adds that there is an urgent need to fill vacancies for field staff, particularly in fire-prone areas, and to make adequate and reliable funding available, the report adds. The report has been prepared jointly by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and World Bank.
Some of the recommendations include – developing a National Forest Fire Prevention Management Plan as an open, consultative and a time-bound process, institute standard management practices, adapt technology to local conditions, as well as scale up the best practices and increase engagement with local communities to ensure that big fire is used in a responsible way and at the same time, give communities a greater say in decision-making process.
The Report suggests that the National FFPM Action Plan should delineate the roles and responsibilities of the MoEFCC, state forest departments, communities and disaster agencies. Lastly, there is a need to support forest fire management through improved data, and research to fill critical knowledge gaps.
A national forest fire information database, bringing together satellite-based remote sensing data, and field-reported data, will be instrumental for assessing longer-term trends across states and regions and for planning fire prevention and response.
In addition, defining a national research agenda for fire management and provision of funding opportunities for scientific research would help to establish formal cooperation between members of the research community and the forest department.
An international workshop was also organized in November, 2017 with an aim to learn the experience in other countries that could be applied to improve policies and practices for effective management of forest fires in India.>