Forest fires do impact the economies as many families are dependent on the forest wealth for food, fuel and fodder. The forest wealth accounts for 68.16 per cent of the total geographic area of the State which is rich in biodiversity and plays a vital role in preserving the fragile Himalayan ecosystem. The rising fire incidents in Himachal Pradesh have been a major cause of worry for authorities and citizens, especially when forests are crucial for the state’s environmental, ecological and economic well-being.
Taking into consideration the problem of forest fires, the State Government is making major improvements in the forest fire management strategy for the State. However this year due to changed weather conditions, summers were not quite harsh, yet stress is being laid on important forest fire management elements like strategic fire centres, coordination among various departments, funding, human resource development, fire research, fire management, and extension programs etc. “Though it is not possible to control them entirely, yet the Key is to ‘Stay Alert’ “stated Chief Minister, Thakur Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu.
The State Forests Department has prepared a fire mapping system to control the fire and has prepared a list of sensitive forests dividing wherein close coordination with Panchayats and local communities and launching awareness campaigns as how to prevent forest fires which does huge loss to flora and fauna of the State will be controlled to great extent, said Sh. Sukhu. Wildfires are a natural occurrence within some forest ecosystems, but in a few years, the fires are becoming more extreme and widespread. Mass contact programmes with the local people, Panchayats, school children, and to make them aware about the damages caused by forest fires to the forest resources, wildlife and the environment,” can be a key achiever in controlling fires to a large extent, said the Chief Minister.
Maps have been prepared for sensitive forests. Sensitive places in the forest prone to fires have been marked and linked from the places from where fire can be controlled. Apart from this the officers of the Forest Department have also held several meetings through virtual medium with the field officers of the Department and the elected representatives of the Panchayats. Forest fires can be defined as any uncontrolled and non-prescribed combustion or burning of plants in a natural setting such as a forest, grassland, brush-land, or tundra, which consumes natural fuels and spreads based on environmental conditions.
Natural causes like lightning can set fires on trees which may be spread by wind. We need to control man-made causes which are usually the ones that become dangerous. It is important to create awareness on a larger scale particularly in rural regions of the State and the local participation of elected bodies can play a pivotal role, he said. Other human-led causes are land clearing and other agricultural activities, maintenance of grasslands for livestock management, extraction of non-wood forest products etc.
Also, when people burn their fields to clear them of stubble, dry grass or undergrowth, the fire sometimes spreads to the adjoining forest. The Department has also constituted Rapid Fire Action Team to control the forest fires. In case of forest fires, this Team will inform the Forest Department about the fire through Whatsapp. Local populace is being sensitized about the ill effects of the forest fire and the role they can play in case of any fire incident.