Punjab, India — The Punjab Forest Department has launched an Integrated Forest Protection Scheme for proper prevention/control and management of forest fires in the State.
Reviewing the activities of the Forest Department regarding prevention and control of forest fires in a meeting attended by the Senior Forest Officers Tikshan Sud, Forest Minister, Punjab said that Punjab Government was quite concerned about increasing incidents of forest fires and has constructed 97 fire watch towers mainly in hilly areas under Punjab Afforestation Project for timely detection and control of forest fires.
He said that under this scheme 1000 km of fire lines, 4 water storage structures each of 1 lac liter capacity and 1 fire tender have been provided during 2007-08 for proper prevention/control and management of forest fires in the State. State
B.C. Bala, PCCF explained that during the current fire season, 124 fires have already been reported affecting 6537.4 hac. forest area of the State. Due to these fires, 56 trees and 7150 other saplings were affected.
The estimated loss on account of damage to trees was about Rs. 56000 and damage to plants Rs. 3,50,000/- He said that forest fire season generally commences from 1st April and extends upto 15th June. During the fire season fires occur due to abundance of dry and highly inflammable biomass such as grass, leaves, twigs in the forest.
The incidences and intensity of fires are cyclical in nature. Generally, there is a 5 to 6 year cycle of periodicity of high incidences of forest fire. Last time it was during the year 2002-03.
Bala further informed that this year, whole of North India i.e. HP, Haryana, Uttranchal and Punjab has been ravaged by forest fires. Most of the fires that occur in the State forests are “ground fires” which cause relatively less damage than “Crown fires”.
Fires occur due to throwing of lighted Cigarette/Biri and the fire lit by graziers for warming food/making tea etc. without properly putting off the same, and fires which spread into forest areas from adjoining fields when farmers burn agricultural residue after harvesting. High temperatures and fast winds cause the fires over large areas. Ground fires do not cause much damage to the trees but young plantations and the under story suffer considerable damage from such fires.
Forest Minister instructed that that needful instructions be issued to all the field staff to be well prepared before the start of fire season. Extensive fire prevention measures should be taken up to prevent fires and minimize damage in the event of the occurrence of fire.
He said that Fire tending equipment is kept ready for use at any time and the same is made readily available at the most vulnerable areas. The Minister sad that Training in fire protection is imparted to the staff in new fire fighting techniques and awareness camps be organised for educating people especially Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs).
Sud said that Pamphlets containing information to prevent and control forest fires should be widely distributed among the public to create awareness. He sad Clearance of fire lines, weeding in plantations and control burning of inflammable material shoud be completed as preventive measures.
It was informed in the meeting that 779 km fire lines have already been cleared in forests this year to check the spread of fires. Weeding and jungle clearance has been undertaken in all the young plantations and watering is also done where feasible to prevent fire damage in young plantations.
During the fire season, 246 firewatchers are regularly engaged by the department in all the vulnerable beats round the clock to promptly monitor and detect forest fires wherever and whenever they occur.
Sud observed that acute shortage of frontline staff (i.e. 350 Forest Guards, 35 Forest Rangers) was seriously affecting the prevention and control of forest fires in the State.
The Minister also issued strict directions to all the staff to be totally prepared to do everything needful for timely prevention and control of forest fires with the active participation of people as per the Joint Forest Management Policy of the State Govt. The Minister also appealed to the public to cooperate with the staff and support them in all the activities to prevent and control forest fires.
R.C Nayar Principal Secretary Forests and senior officers of Forest Department also participated in the meeting.