India — Even though sudden forest fires during summer are usual phenomena, the forest department has been instrumental in combating them with the help of village level Forest Protection Committees. Due to staff crunch and non availability of vehicles and necessary fire fighting equipments, they haveappealed for cooperation from NGOs, villagers and tourists.
Summer season is the peak time for breakout of forest fires. Particularly the dried grass and flowing wind add the chances of spreading the fire at faster rate. 15 minor forest fire cases were reported this season from Pune division, particularly from Sinhgad, Khandala and Rajmachi, till date. However, there is no report of loss of wild life and human life, said assistant forest conservator Ashok Pawar.
As a precautionary measure, the forest department has completed demarcating the fire lines in the forest area and road side, especially around the plantation done in recent five years.
Forest fires triggered by nature are very rare, almost nil, in our area. Most of the times forest fires break out due to human negligence. Sometimes local people believe that burning grass enhances growth of new grass next season for cattle grazing. Tourists are also responsible for forest fires as they irresponsibly throw away cigarette butts, he added. At very sensitive forest patches, fire watchers have been appointed, but the forest department is facing a severe staff crunch. Pawar said that the department is operational on the limited staff and limited equipments, since last 25 years.
Out of nine ranges in Pune division, only one division has vehicle. It is difficult to fight against forest fires and poaching as well, still the department is doing its job. Hence the department seeks for cooperation from the villagers.
Currently, around 400 Forest Protection Committees have been working in various villages. As the modern fire fighting techniques are not suited for Indian forest pockets and not affordable as well, director social forestry Prakash Thosare also insisted on combined efforts of foresters, local villagers and NGOs. Villagers should be encouraged to develop a vested interest in protecting the forest around their villages.
15 MINOR CASES
15 minor forest fire cases were reported this season from Pune division, particularly from Sinhgad, Khandala and Rajmachi, said asst forest conservator Ashok Pawar