Draft Forest Fires Rule

Draft Forest Fires Rule

11 April 2012

published by www.kuenselonline.com

Bhutan — Draft Forest Fires Rule: After the fire in Namseling, Thimphu last month, the forest department made a new rule. A valid permit should be obtained from the gewog administration, thromde or the nearest forest office before burning agricultural debris during fire season, which starts from November and ends by April.

That is one of the additions in the new draft forest fire rules, which is being discussed among forest officers in a two-day meeting that began in Thimphu yesterday.

Some of the rules in the draft state that burning of debris should be carried out before 8am, and all measures should be taken to completely put off the fire while leaving the site. The landowner shall be responsible for damages caused as a result of uncontrollable fire.

However, if the person produces a valid permit and, if the fire escapes, the permit holder shall only bear the cost of the fire suppression. If the person does not produce the valid permit, the culprit shall bear the cost of fire suppression and fine of Nu 50 an acre from the existing Nu 300 to 1,000 an acre, or equivalent prison term to the amount incurred for fire suppression and fine. The amount has been reduced because people were unable to pay the previous amount, said forest officials.

If a person burns the debris beyond the prescribed time, the person shall be liable to pay a fine of Nu 200 per occasion, irrespective of whether there is a fire outbreak or not.

The rules also state that a person, who intentionally sets the forest on fire, shall be liable to pay the cost of suppression, in addition to a fine of Nu 1,000 an acre burnt or an equivalent prison term. A person, who attempts to set fire intentionally, will also be considered guilty of an offense, and shall be liable for a fine of Nu 500 per incident.

“Thousands of acres of forests are burnt every year and to date, the major cause of forest fire is manmade,” forest officials said.

According to the department of forest and park services, forest fire is one of the main causes of forest degradation in Bhutan. “The forest and nature conservation rule of Bhutan, 2006 is not precise, and doesn’t reflect the penalties for each and every cause,” head of forest fire management program Tandin Dorji said.

“Therefore, the department felt the need for a separate forest rule, and came up with the draft at the end of last year.”

The draft also states that children below the age of 18, who cause a forest fire, shall also be liable for penalties. If the fire escapes from the school campus, the head of the school will be fully responsible, and shall be liable for the cost of fire suppression, in addition to a fine of Nu 10 an acre of the area burnt. The parents would be held fully responsible, if a child from outside the school campus started the fire.

Tandin Dorji said fire suppression cost includes the daily wage of the number of people, who come to battle the fire, and the cost of the fire fighters. The penalties collected will go to the government.

Tandin Dorji said in 2010 a few children below the age of 18 were responsible for some forest fires in Thimphu capital, while playing with ignition, but they could not be apprehended because they were under age.

One of the dzongkhag forest officers said the rule of replanting trees by the community if the culprit is not apprehended has failed. “The community never cooperates, because they have their own work to do, and there are not enough resources for seedlings and plants,” he said.

The draft will be finalised this week and could be implemented by next month. The new rules will not be applicable for the recent fires.

Fire update

The two police personnel who were admitted to the intensive care unit on April 8 afternoon, although in serious condition, are stable and recovering, Thimphu referral hospital doctors said.

One of them has now been shifted to the surgical ward, the doctors said. The other three are still in the orthopedic ward.

A total of 23 police personnel were injured when the truck they were travelling in to battle a forest fire, fell off the road on April 8.

Meanwhile, police has detained none apart from the three suspects for the fire who were taken in for questioning after the fire incident.

Police said the three happened to be at the fire site by coincidence and were innocent. The cause of the fire is still unknown. The bodies of the two policemen will be cremated today.

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