Forest Fires- Causes, control and preventive measures
G L KHAJURIA
According to the Forest Survey of India (FSI) 2019 report, about 21.40 per cent of forest cover in India is prone to fires. The Forests in the NE-region and central India are most Vulnerable. The finding has emerged from a study carried out by the FSI along forest fire points across the country from 2004 to 2014.
Fire-Prone Extremely fire-prone areas account for 3.89 per cent of total forest cover, Very highly fire prone areas account for 6-01 per cent and Highly fire prone areas for 11.50 per cent. In J&K, the fire most commonly engulf periodically the ‘ the shivalik ranges’ from Lakhanpur to the last tip of the border touching Poonch comprising mostly of scrub forest with chirpine as the most economical species.
Nature has itself provided chirpine with thick bark for its susceptibility but it is more prone to fire. Admittedly man made big strides in modern days information technology and other allied fields, yet so far no fool proof method could be devised to counteract this malady which strikes very year with the onset of summer spells.
In the higher stretches of forest where chirpine, blue pine, deodar, and spruce exist, the incidence are far lesser but once it engulfs those forests, it is havoc. The ground flora is burnt to cinder, off shooting crown fire which spreads swiftly thus making the situation grave and uncomfortable.
Forest fire-it nature: Though the modern days man has made scrupulous advancement in science and technology, construction of road bridges, hydel projects and the like and all these factors such as road links provide a smooth ground for the movements through forest and the unmindful man, in, his pleasuring travels throw cigarette which ignites the dry needles of springing wild fir which uncontrollably engulfs big chunks of forest. Man by virtue of nature has born with greed as the saying goes, nature can fulfill man’s need but not its greed’ goes true .
So does the man and in almost 80 percent cases, he is responsible by putting the forest ground fire for the yield of the rich and flourishing grass to fulfill grass requirements for cattle. A man in the street raises accusing a finger towards forest department which is not so. This is baseless, unfounded and uncalled for as the forest department over the years has by all dints protected and preserved the forest at the cost of their life. There are glaring examples on record where in most of cases the forest officials had to play with their lives in encountering forest fires.
It does not go without saying that a poor forester is helpless and ill-equipped to counter the menace without local cooperation whereas the forest laws provide that in the event of forest fire, it is obligatory on the part of locals to render all possible assistance under law.
They are supposed to assemble at the site of fire give/ record their attendants in extinguishing forest fire and make all efforts with forest officials.
However, invalids, old persons and female have been exempted from this purview of law and that’s why, the local inhabitants are granted concessions in the issuance of concessions of timber/ other within the concession zone besides the glazing of domestic animals in the open forest except those prohibited under law en vogue.
But ironically, the case is otherwise as the local response is very poor and it becomes cumbersome to face the situation by the department single handedly.
Debris burning. All the dead dying and diseased fallen material left after the exploitation by the state forest development cooperation agency are breeding grounds for spread of fire whereby healthy crops are inflicted and more so with the unset of dry spell, this material provides empties for further inflammation to the fire. The solution, therefore, lies in the disposal of such remnant material by debris burning under the close surveillance of the department or to issue such timber to the local concessionist.
Fire lines: In forestry parlance a wild strip is being laid down in the forest most vulnerable to fire, the nature/ density of the crop and the extent of vulnerability. All unwanted bushes, poles and even trees are cut and removed to make it into a wide passage so that in the eventually of fire it does not get an occasion to cross adjoining part of forest. The fire lines formations are warranted.
Control burning with the onset of autum there is leaf litter fall particularly both in the deciduous/ conifer forests which almost cover the forest floor with inflammable material.
In order, therefore, to safeguard the forest from fire, it becomes imperative to collect all such leaf litter and remove to safer places for control burning under the supervision of forest department.
Fire-fighting equipment. As is in vogue with the fire service department, necessary infrastructure such as fire beaters, pick axes, bill-hooks, fire proof jackets, hats and other infrastructure needs to be kept at the Disposal of the department. This is imperative and warranted.
Construction of watch towers this is most helpful aspect and the watch towers need to be constructed at equidistance for close surveillance and regular monitoring so that as an where fire occurs, rapid action can be taken instantly to combat and control spreading.
Firefighting squad. Forest protection force is an independent wing provided with wireless sets and all communicative infrastructures. This wing has a long role to play with to combat fire hazards.The force further needs to be invigorated and fortified to safeguard the green wealth.
Construction of water ponds such constructions help in extinguishing forest fires in much needed areas besides fulfilling multi purposes and can go a long way-in combating the fire hazards with the advancement of modern technology, most of the European/advance countries are pressing into the use of foam gaswhich grips/ control the fire, the CFC (Chlorofloro Carbon) and halogen gases are further he most useful gases in extinguishing fire.
These technologies as well need to be introduced in our country. Conclusively, therefore, it is quite pertinent to work out fool proof strategies if at all we humans have to live over this precious mother earth which has bestowed upon us by the almighty God and let us be fear of him.
(The author is former
Deputy Conservator of J&K Forests Department).