Russia — On April 27th, 2011, at the round table New Approaches to Forest Management and Forest Fire Protection in the Russian Federation held at the RF Chamber of Trade and Industry, IUCN ENPI-FLEG consultant Vladimir Zakharov and his colleagues presented the results of the study Information Openness as the Basis of Mass Fire Prevention Education and Public Participation in Forest Fire Protection Activities.
The study involved an examination of the information content on the internet sites of 15 regional forest governance bodies. These 15 regions were chosen according to two different criteria:
– 9 of these regions were selected because during the summer of 2010 a state of emergency was announced or a large number of houses and other structures were affected by wild fires. These regions include Moscow, Vladimir, Voronezh, Nizhny Novgorod, Ryazan and Sverdlovskaya regions, Altaisky krai and the republics of Mari El and Mordovia. – The other 6 regions, located in Siberia and the Russian Far East, were selected for the study because in 2011 they have become sites of large-scale forest fires. These regions include the Republic of Buryatia, Amur and Novosibirsk regions and Zabaikalsky, Krasnoyarsk and Primorsky krais.
It was found that, although in all of these 15 regions there were relevant internet sites (or at least internet pages with minimum information), only 3-4 of them were assessed as complying with the required standards.
Notwithstanding the important positive changes that have been taking place in the system of forest governance in the course of the past several months, the internet site of Rosleskhoz would need to be upgraded.
Only 5 sites had special forest news lines. Regional government bodies have a very scarce presentation of news on their internet sites. Only in 2 out of the 15 studied sites, the researchers were able to identify distinct contact information of relevant press services. The use of internet sites as active sources of information on forest fires was assessed, overall, as unsatisfactory and requiring prompt and decisive changes.
The situation with the provision of current-awareness information on forest fires on practically all of the studied internet sites was assessed as a failure. Only one of them contained a rating of forest fire danger classes. None had fire danger forecast maps or maps showing the location of forestry units or links to hot spots, which, starting from April 2010, are being regularly placed on the internet sites of the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Only on 6 sites (40%) recommendations on what to do in the case of a forest fire were found. Only 7 sites contained information on whom to contact with information on a forest fire.
The main conclusion of the analytical study is the following: The use of internet sites of regional forest governance bodies as a source of information on forest fires and, especially, of current information, still remains, as a rule, on an unsatisfactory level and this requires urgent measures. Access to information is an indispensible condition of public involvement in forest fire protection.