Forest fires – operational management systems and organizations

10 November 2007

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According to the Constitution of India, the central and state governments in the country are enabled to legislate on forestry issues. The implementation part of the forest policy/programmes lies with the state government. Thus, fire prevention, detection, and suppression activities are the responsibility of the state governments’ forestry departments. The policy, planning, and financing are the primary responsibility of the Central Government. There is generally no separate department for carrying out forest fire management in the states. The regular staff of the forest departments in the states carries out various activities of forest fire management. During forest fire seasons in some of the divisions, fire watchers are recruited by the state governments as a special provision. At the central level, the Ministry of Environment and Forests is the ministry responsible for forest conservation and protection. Forest fire management is administered by the “Forest Protection Division” of the Ministry, which is headed by a Deputy Inspector General of Forests. The Ministry is implementing a plan called “Modern Forest Fire Control Methods” in India under which state governments are provided financial assistance for fire prevention and control. This assistance is being used by the state governments for procuring hand tools, fire resistant clothes, firefighting tools, radios, fire watch towers, fire finders, creation of fire lines, research, training, and publicity on firefighting. This project is carried out in fourteen states and covers more than 70 percent of the forest area of the country.

Community involvement

In India, at present there are more than 1 lakh Joint Forest Management (JFM) Committees which are involved in forest protection and conservation covering more than 22 million ha. of land . These JFM committees also have been given responsibilities to protect the forests from fires.

Public policies concerning fire

India’s National Forest Policy (1988) presents a visionary strategy for forest conservation and management and emphasizes protection of forests against encroachment, fire, and grazing. It states that “The incidence of forest fires in the country is high. Standing trees and fodder are destroyed on a large scale and natural regeneration annihilated by such fires. Special precautions should be taken during the fire season. Improved and modern management practices should be adopted to deal with forest fire”. This policy provides a positive step towards protection of forests from fire. The legal and policy framework exists in support of fire protection in the country.

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