Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop on  Scientific Dimensions of Forest Fires, March 27-29, 2000, COSTED, Chennai, India

COSTED: Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop on Scientific Dimensions of Forest Fires

27-29 March 2000, Chennai, India

A Report

35 scientists and senior experts from the Asia-Pacific countries met at the COSTED Secretariat during 27-29 March to discuss the scientific dimensions of forest fires and to identify ways by which science and technology could provide a strong backup to forest fire prevention, management and mitigation. The participating countries included Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and U.K.

This meeting was organised by the International Secretariat of the Committee on Science and Technology in Developing Countries which is a constituent body of the International Council for Science, located in Paris. The subject of this workshop had been identified more than a year ago, as one of high priority and critical need for the Asia-Pacific region at a brain stroming session of the Federation of Asian Scientific Academies and Societies which met in November 1998 at this very premises.

The workshop was generously supported by Department of Science and Technology, UNESCO regional office for South and Central Asia, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, India and the Commonwealth Science Council, London. On 27th March the workshop was formally inaugurated by Prof.V.S.Ramamurthy, Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Science and Technology. Prof.M.Moegiadi, Director, UNESCO regional office for South and Central Asia presided over the meeting. Dr.Thyagarajan, Scientific Secretary and the Chief Executive Head of COSTED, delivered a welcome address at the occasion and Dr.Peter Manins representing the Commonwealth Science Council greeted the participants on behalf of the Council.

The workshop programme began with country status reports by the participating countries which set the tone for the ensuing discussions. Delegates from participating countries highlighted the state-of art in their countries on understanding fire and haze behaviour, control and mitigation measures. The presentations revealed the common issues of many countries and also brought out the country – specific dimensions pertaining to fire and haze behaviour and their impacts. While Indonesia faced serious threats due to recurrent and widespread forest fires on a large scale, Malaysia faced a different kind of problem, namely those of peat fires that are slow burning and much more polluting than the raging fires. Australian fires on the other hand are more dangerous and fast spreading, often triggered by dry climatic conditions. A presentation on chemical fires and its correlation with forest fires offered some interesting ideas for preparedness and mitigation of forest fires.

A brain storming session followed the country papers. This session centered around the various dimensions of forest fires namely ecological, environmental, atmospheric meteorological, data issues and public awareness enhancement. This was followed by a discussion session to formulate a regional project encompassing the perceived priorities, the data and knowledge gaps, research needs, capacity building and networking potential. The deliberations are summarised as follows.

Broad range of needs identified

  1. Information and data needs

  • prior art
  • knowledge gaps
  • coverage
  • data reduction
  • traditional knowledge systems
  1. Research needs

  • fire / risk / hazards mapping
  • integration
  • comprehensive modelling systems – including environment/biology/geosphere
  • designing early warning systems
  • ground truthing
  • observational data gatherings and remote sensing
  • zero burning – science / technology
  • policy – society interface
  • traditional knowledge systems
  • fire dynamics/ecology
  • biocontrol of fire management
  • hydrology of fire management
  • meteorological, climatological inputs and impacts
  • reclaiming and restoration of forest fire damaged areas
  1. Capacity building needs

  • trainees and areas
  • trainers – training of trainers and countries
  • training methods / materials no. Of persons /area
  • training institutions
  • costing capacity building
  • sourcing resource persons
  • scheduling training
  • structuring capacity building
  • willing partners (eg. 4 partners, 3 courses, 20 trainees/year = 240 trainees/year)
  1. Networking

  • Knowledge networks
  • Micro networks
  • Mini networks
  • Macro networks
  • Public participation
  • Systems of networking
  • Cyberspace mode
  1. Participating institutions, responsibilities and co-ordination
  2. Linkages with other active agencies
  3. Sourcing resources

The workshop finally crafted the outline for a regional research project based on the needs identified. The outline is presented below.

Project outline

Primary objectives

  • To protect biodiversity and the environment by providing science and technology support to prevent, control and mitigate damaging forest fires
  • To address scientifically, the transboundary pollution and environmental impacts and consequences.

Research needs in order of priority

  • Risk mapping, danger rating and early warning system
  • Modelling of fire including physical and biological aspects into accounts and validation across the region
  • Environmental impacts of transboundary haze and other pollutants (pre and post fire situations)
  • Ecological dimensions of fire and biocontrol
  • Traditional knowledge systems in fire management

Information and data needs

  • prior art
  • knowledge gaps
  • coverage
  • data reduction
  • traditional knowledge systems

Observational data gathering (gis, remote sensing etc.) and validation

Capacity building

Training programmes workshops, exchanges

Awareness programmes


    • Knowledge networks
    • Mico mini and macro levels
    • Public participation network

Sources (indicative)

  • adb, world bank, difid,aciar, csc, undp, fao,iucn
  • national agencies and govts.


  • national and regional institutions, govts.


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