Bhutan — A meeting involving about 45 forest fire volunteers was held on 10th April 2010 at the Conference Hall of the Department of Forests and Parks Services (DoFPS) in Thimphu. Forest Fire is a man-made calamity that has serious consequences to our environment. Such anthropogenic (human caused) related disasters can be effectively mitigated through public participation and awareness. The project titled Reducing Forest Fire through Volunteerism, supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Program, lays the foundation of involving volunteers in advocating active participation from communities to combat the most critical environmental problems, as in this case, in fighting forest fire. The use of forest fire volunteers has proved effective as seen in many forest fire outbreaks in Thimphu and other Dzongkhags.
Mr. Bap Tandin, Head of the Forest Fire Management Section addressing the Forest Fire Volunteers
Since the Department of Forests and Park Services alone is not in a position to prevent, suppress and control forest fires, and as it is not always possible to get the support of the Armed Forces and public everywhere, the Department realised the need to actively involve Forest fire Volunteers (FFV) and solicit support from the general public including business communities, private agencies and the civil service. Since the inception of the Forest Fire Volunteers Program in April 2008, initiated by the Forest Fire Management Section several workshops, meetings and basic trainings on fire fighting techniques and safety measures have been conducted and given to all the registered FFVs and to representatives from the Armed forces. In addition, the DoFPS has carried out numbers of awareness campaigns around Thimphu. This campaign included involving volunteers integrating with the school children on forest fire prevention measures, informing the caretakers on guidelines on how to safely burn debris in the orchards and also to the people living close to forested areas.
Participants discussing various problems and possible solutions at the meeting
Further, the DoFPS felt there was a very important need to construct and develop a well synchronised forest fire coordination mechanism with volunteers in terms of prevention and suppression activities. Given the active participation by forest fire volunteers not only during every programme conducted by the Department but also during random forest fire outbreaks, the DoFPS strongly felt that volunteers should be equipped with all the necessary fire fighting equipments. This has been possible through a project supported by the SGP/ UNDP project called Reducing forest fires through volunteerism which is financially supported by the SGP/UNDP.
Outside the DoFPS near the Tashichhodzong
To enhance the accountability of this project and to provide accurate information of the assistance provided by the project, the Forest Fire Management Section together with the volunteers will re-visit the project activities. Further, this meeting will be aimed at involving volunteers in forest fire control and surveillance duty during the 16th SAARC summit as directed by the Honble Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests.