National Round Table on Fire Management and Field Assessment of the 2015 Spring Fires in Eastern Mongolia 4-8 May 2015
In following up the building of national capacities in fire management in Mongolia and the intent to foster cooperation in fire management between the neighbouring countries of Central Asia (see website of the Regional Central Asia Wildland Fire Network and its dedicated web page Regional and National Fire Management Consultation and Meetings, which includes the initiation of setting up the National Coordination Committee on Forest and Steppe Fire Protection (NCCFSFP) in 2008 the Government of Mongolia convened the National Round Table Strengthening Inter-Agency Cooperation in Fire Management on 5 May 2015. The Round Table was held in preparation of setting up the Fire Management Resource Center-Central Asia Region (FMRC-CAR), which has been established at the National University of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar through the support of the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) with the financial assistance of the Swiss Confederation and which will be officially inaugurated in September 2015. The Round Table was held under the impressions of the extremely severe wildfires that affected the East of the country in April 2015.
After the Round Table a field assessment of the 2015 spring fires in Eastern Mongolia, including transboundary fires between Mongolia, the Russian Federation and China was conducted by RCAFMRC, GFMC, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism of Mongolia.
Some visual impression of the fires, which affected about 4 million hectares of steppe and forest lands and had significant impacts on vegetation, wildlife including migratory species, local communities and national and transboundary air quality are provided below. All Photos: FMRC-CAR. Satellite imagery: Courtesy NASA.
The wildfires occurring in Eastern Mongolia, SE Siberia and China in April 2015 had been fanned by extremely strong winds and thus became almost uncontrollable. The fires in the Russian Federation claimed 34 lives, injured 7,500 people and destroyed about 1,400 homes and left 5,000 people homeless: In Mongolia the fires burned more than 5.5 million hectares (ha) of steppe and forest lands. Three people were severely injured, dozens of local villages destroyed and several thousand livestock killed. The blue, green, yellow and orange colours show the aerosols associated with the smoke from vegetation fires occurring in Eastern Russia and Eastern Mongolia on April 15, 2015. The smoke plumes were transported to the South (North and South Korea) and to the East (reaching the U.S. Pacific West Coast). The lower left satellite-derived fire map shows the fires burning in Russia and crossing the Mongolian border on 20 April 2015 and the ground verification by the Fire Assessment Mission on 6 May 2015.
Extended areas of steppe ecosystems, birch, pine and larch forests were affected by the fires.
While steppe grass and bush vegetation were entirely consumed by the wildfires, some of the forests could survive the fire. Evidence of past fires were found in pine and larch fire scars all over the affected mountainous forests.
Intensive grazing in and around settlements resulted in slowing down the wildfire intensity and thus villages could be defended successfully. The lower photograph shows a fire-affected traditional cemetery.
Interviews with affected herders, foresters and protected area rangers.
Mr. М.Khurelsukh, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism, Chief, National Coordination Committee on Forest and Steppe Fire Protection (NCCFSFP), chaired the Round Table. Mr. Zaluukhuu, Chief, Department of Firefighting, National Emergency Management Agency and Deputy Chief of the NCCFSFP presented the state of the art in fire management in Mongolia.
High interest of the media, interviewing Emergency Colonel Ganbaatar Jamyansuren, University of Law Enforcement, Ministry of Justice Mongolia; and Dr. Ts. Chuluunbaatar, Senior specialist, Department of Forest Policy, Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism.
The Directors of FMRC-CAR, Oyunsanaa Byambasuren, and GFMC, Johann G. Goldammer, were awarded by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) the State Medal for Disaster Reduction.
Following up the National Round Table and Field Assessment: Briefing of Ms. Margareta Wahlström, Undersecretary General of the United Nations and Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, at the Ministry for Environment, Green Development and Tourism, 12 May 2015. Photo: Ministry of Environment, Green Development and Tourism