COSTED: Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop on Scientific Dimensions of Forest Fires
27-29 March 2000, Chennai, India
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
Information and data needs
traditional knowledge systems
fire / risk / hazards mapping
comprehensive modelling systems including environment/biology/geosphere
designing early warning systems
observational data gatherings and remote sensing
zero burning science / technology
policy – society interface
traditional knowledge systems
biocontrol of fire management
hydrology of fire management
meteorological, climatological inputs and impacts
reclaiming and restoration of forest fire damaged areas