South Korea — Mountainous regions in various parts of the country have been burning of late. The first half of April is considered to be the period of greatest risk for the outbreak of the bushfires here. However, last weekend alone, as many as 44 areas across the country were ravaged by bushfires brought about by the dry conditions due to recent drought, and fanned by strong winds.
Inadequate fire prevention systems in mountainous areas are presumed responsible for the devastation bushfires cause. Obsolete fire fighting equipment, lack of access routes and small reservoirs for emergency use coupled with a shortage of officials to protect forests were pointed out as reasons for failing to protect our precious forest resources from being destroyed.
The fires destroying our forests are being repeated around this time of the year despite government efforts for comprehensive fire prevention measures. But, the government efforts have proved ineffective. Any effective measures are not expected without a drastic renovation in the nation’s basic anti-calamity structure.
The necessary budget for effective measures to prevent and fight fires must be substantially increased. The training of anti-calamity experts, and acquiring modern, firefighting equipment are urgent tasks. Lately, helicopters are the main defense for firefighting in mountain regions but most are small or medium-sized and are hardly adequately in fighting massive bushfires.
It is surprising to hear that the number of bushfires is increasing lately. A worrisome fact is that most bushfires are the result of human carelessness. Statistics released by the Office of Forestry indicate that about half the mountain fires are started by mountaineers. Despite repeated warnings by concerned authorities, many mountaineers still carry lighters, matches and other inflammable materials for cooking or other purposes.
The concerned authorities are advised to punish anyone responsible for setting a bushfire, with possible maximum sentences regardless of the extent of damage, as a move to reduce the outbreak of bushfires. The forests are an important national property, playing crucial role in flood prevention. It takes 20 to 30 years to recover from a fire and 40 to 100 years are needed for the restoration of the ecological environment.
In the case of mountain fires, it is important to detect them early for effective fire fighting. In that sense, the concerned authorities and people around the mountain regions are required to cooperate closely to adequately prevent such fires starting.
Fire prevention and forest protection should be sought from a viewpoint of safeguarding people’s right to live.