Central Asia has recently suffered major forest and other wildland fire problems. The causes of an increasing occurrence of wildfires in forests and other wildlands, including the underlying reasons for increasing human-caused fires, vary within the region and are due to:
transition from centrally planned to market economies
national to regional conflicts, creation of new nations, involving political tensions and war
increasing population growth and land-use pressure
regional climate change towards increase of extreme droughts
It has been proposed that a Regional Wildland Fire Network for Central Asia would assist to promote cooperation and sharing of resources in wildland fire management, including wildland fire science. In order to create this network, one of the six networks within the region of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE), a major regional conference, organized by the UNECE/FAO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire was held in Antalya, Turkey, 30 March – 3 April 2004.
Several reasons supported the idea for holding such a regional conference in Turkey.First, the Balkan countries, some of them being in a post-war situation and under reconstruction, as well as the South Eastern European countries which are still in economic and political transition, have not participated in recent activities of the ECE/FAO Fire Team of Specialists on Forest Fire and other international wildland fire research and development projects. Second, the neighbouring countries of Turkey, such as the Caucasus states, Iran,Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, are quite isolated from recent scientific and technological developments in fire management. Third, the fire problems in Mongolia and northern China, and to a limited extent in Afghanistan,call for cooperation with the ECE region.
From the point of view of the ECE/FAO/ILO Team of Specialists on Forest Fire and the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC), which coordinates the work of the team in the ECE region and keeps close contacts with non-ECE countries, the countries listed above deserve full attention and support to bring them into the family of the international community of forest fire scientists, managers and policymakers.
Theconference was concluded successfully and resulted in the Antalya Declarationon Cooperation in Wildland Fire Management in the Balkans, EasternMediterranean, Near East and Central Asia:
Follow-up discussions were held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, 20-21 July 2004 (participants: Focal Points from Kazakhstan, Russian Federation and GFMC). At the Regional Central Asian Forest Congress Forest Policy: Problems and Solutions, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, 25-27 November 2004, the GFMC presented the status of the regional network and the Global Wildland Fire Network. In the resolution of the congress the forest services of Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan endorsed the participation in the Global Wildland Fire Network and the development of an international wildland fire accord.
First steps to enhance fire management capacities of Mongolia and Central Asian countries have been initiated by the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) in 2004. In 2004, the first international conference “Forest Fire Management and International Cooperation in Fire Emergencies in the Eastern Mediterranean, Balkans and Adjoining Regions of the Near East and Central Asia” was held in Turkey, followed by the “Regional Central Asian Forest Congress: “Forest Policy: Problems and Solutions” in Kyrgyzstan in the same year. In the resolution of the Congress, the forest services of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan endorsed the participation in the Global Wildland Fire Network and the development of an international wildland fire accord. Subsequently, the Regional Central Asia Wildland Fire Network was established as one of the 14 regional networks within the Global Wildland Fire Network.
After the Meeting on “Forest and Steppe Fires in Mongolia: An Inter-Agency Meeting to Define the Way Ahead” was organized in Ulaanbaatar on 11 September 2008; the Round Table meetings were held (2009, 2014, 2015) with the participation of all stakeholders in fire management in Mongolia and discussed current wildland fire situations and future steps. As it stated in the 5th International Wildland Fire Conference held in 2011 in South Africa, fire management is complex and requires coordination of participating agencies and other stakeholders. To overcome these issues an establishment of a unit of competence in fire research and management in Mongolia was identified as an urgent issue, therefore, establishment of the Fire Management Resource Center – Central Asia Region (FMRC-CAR) has been accepted and decreed by the President of the National University of Mongolia on 01 April, 2015 and an official opening ceremony was held on 21 September 2015 in Ulaanbaatar with the long-standing support of the GFMC and financial support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) through the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The FMRC-CAR is functioning as the Coordinator of Regional Central Asia Wildland Fire Network and mandated by the Government of Mongolia to serve as secretariat of the National Coordination Committee on Forest and Steppe Fire Protection (NCCFSFP).