INDIA - KOCHI: With mercury levels shooting up in several parts of the state, the Kerala forest department has activated its fire alert mechanism in forest areas and buffer zones.
While officials and experts say that Kerala does not need to worry about fires of the magnitude reported in other parts of the world, there is a growing debate even on controlled fires. Should the department continue with the system of having controlled fires? Does the protection mechanism end up doing more harm than good? These are the questions that are being asked in the backdrop of the global warming, climate change and invasion of exotic species that is changing the natural vegetation of Kerala’s pristine forests.
“I don’t think that we should opt for a complete protection and prevention mode. Forest is an everchanging ecosystem which has its own checks and balances. These corrections happen when trees fall, when fire rages and even when there is over-grazing.Grasslands, which are home to a unique ecosystem, will continue to develop only when such events happen,” said V Gopinathan, former principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF).
He said that Wayanad has a special ecosystem.”We have always felt that social pressures have forced too much protection in the forests so much so that we are seeing an increase in exotic plant species which is actually not being eaten by most animals,” said Gopinathan.
“In fact, these systems help prevent the humananimal conflict. The animals will stay away in the wild without coming into the human or buffer zones,” said James Zacharias, a former forester.
However, forest researchers beg to differ. They say that there is scientific evidence and that it is time to do away even with the concept of controlled fires.”Certain herbivores including the Nilgiri Tahr needs fresh grass and the department has the concept of controlled fires to destroy the old grass so that new grass germinates. In the topical evergreen forests, there is enough moisture that helps in growth of vegetation even if there’s a fire event,” said E A Jayson, senior scientist, department of wildlife biology , KFRI.
He said that KFRI has been doing studies looking at the different aspects of forest elements including the soil, microbes and vegetation. “The indicators are that we will need to review some of our old concepts of how we look at fire.”
“While we have not seen any changes in the microbial behaviour in the sense that after a fire event, we have noticed that the microbes re-colonise. But in case of soils, the changes are very phenomenal.Soil nutrients are depleting and we have started doing tests on soil samples in places affected by intense and frequent fires. Even controlled fire incidents are a cause for concern,” said soil scientist M P Sujatha.
She said that there is growing scientific evidence.”When there is change in temperature, there will be changes. We have found that if there is rain after the fire, all the soil nutrients get washed out. And we normally get the good rains in summer too,” she added.
SINGAPORE, Feb 9 People in Singapore are willing to cough up nearly 1 per cent of their annual income in order to guarantee the absence of transboundary haze for a year, researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have found.
In total, they are willing to pay US$643.5 million (RM2.8 billion) a year large enough to make a substantive impact on the problem if used for land conservation and restoration, the researchers state in a paper published in Februarys issue of the journal,Environmental Research Letters.
The papers authors, Yuan Lin, Lahiru Wijedasa and Dr Ryan Chisholm, wrote: Our results indicate that Singaporeans experience sufficiently negative impacts of air pollution (in) their day-to-day life, or personal health during haze periods, that they are willing to trade off personal financial gain for improvements in air quality.
Transboundary haze is a long-standing problem in the South-east Asian region, largely caused by the drainage of carbon-rich peatland as well as companies and farmers in Indonesia using fire to clear land.
Singapore experienced its worst haze episode in 2015 from September to November, with the Pollutant Standards Index hitting hazardous levels.
Since then, Indonesia has renewed efforts to prevent fires, although a state of emergency was declared last month in Riau province over forest and land fires.
The economic impact of haze pollution here has been estimated using cost-benefit analysis before, but the researchers said that the figures could be an under-estimate because they exclude impacts such as non-hospitalisable health effects that are difficult to infer from economic data.
The 2015 haze episode was estimated to have cost Singapore S$700 million (RM2.19 billion) in losses.
The NUS researchers surveyed 390 people in public areas from November 2015 to February 2016 on their willingness to pay, should the Singapore Government be able to guarantee good air quality year-round.
The participants, from various age and income groups, were given options ranging from 0.05 per cent to 5 per cent of their annual income, after they indicated if they were willing to support such a haze mitigation fund.
The average persons willingness to pay was an estimated 0.97 per cent of his/her annual income.
However, about three in 10 respondents were unwilling to pay even the minimum option of 0.05 per cent of their annual income.
Wijedasa said that one of the solutions proposed for the haze problem is payments for ecosystem services.
This could take the form of richer nations aiding better land management and restoration by making regular payments.
Indonesia has estimated that it needs US$2.1 billion to help restore two million hectares of peatland in (the country). They have currently only received US$50 million from Norway and US$17 million from the United States.
“Could this shortfall be filled by Singapore (and other countries in the region)?
Tan Yi Han, who is not involved in the study and is co-founder of non-governmental organisation Peoples Movement to Stop Haze, said that the findings are helpful and should motivate the Singapore Government to spend on measures to prevent haze, such as a subsidy on certified sustainable palm oil, as well as aid to support peat restoration and protection efforts in Indonesia.
His organisations survey last year found that more than nine in 10 respondents were willing to pay more for certified sustainable products to help mitigate the haze, Tan said.
Most were willing to pay 5 to 10 per cent more.
Consumers game to chip in to avoid any haze include Steven Lim, who is in his 40s and self-employed. How much he is willing to contribute would depend on the amount needed to make an impact.
Maybe S$10? Multiplied by many individuals, it would be a lot, Lim said, preferring that the money goes to the Indonesian government.
– See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/money/article/singaporeans-willing-to-fork-out-1pc-of-income-to-ensure-no-more-haze#sthash.CRhWHQHj.dpuf
El capitán del primer batallón de la Unidad Militar de Emergencias (UME), Emilio Arias, ha descrito como “dantescos” los efectos del incendio forestal en el paraje natural de la Sierra de Gata (Cáceres), aunque ha sido optimista en cuanto a su extinción al darse una situación “bastante favorable” en estos momentos. Fotogalería ALCALDE 11 Fotos La Sierra de Gata, tras el incendio “El incendio se dio por estabilizado y ahora mismo sólo hay pequeños focos que se reactivan por lo que la situación es bastante adecuada para intentar extinguir el fuego”, ha explicado Arias en una entrevista en COPE. Arias ha descrito como “dantesco” el efecto del fuego en una zona “donde el terreno era precioso”. El mando único del Plan Director del Infoex decidía este lunes mantener activo el Nivel 2 de peligrosidad en el incendio de Sierra de Gata ante las previsiones de viento y altas temperaturas. Las mismas predicciones indican que habrá una mejoría a partir de las primeras horas de la noche del lunes, según ha informado la Junta de Extremadura. Más de 200 efectivos se mantienen en la zona. Intentar llegar a la normalidad es “un tanto difícil”, y que ahora hay que hacer valoraciones de los daños El incendio declarado el pasado jueves ha arrasado unas 7.500 hectáreas de alto valor agrícola, ambiental y paisajístico, de ahí que el Gobierno regional haya iniciado ya la evaluación de los daños y comenzado a preparar la recuperación de la zona. El director general de Medio Ambiente, Pedro Muñoz, ha afirmado que el incendio ha causado un “desastre” desde el punto de vista medioambiental ya que ha arrasado miles de hectáreas de pinar, olivar y pastos, además de haber producido cuantiosos daños materiales en algunas poblaciones. La asociación conservacionista SEO/Birdlife ha denunciado que el incendio afectó gravemente a especies amenazadas y a espacios protegidos de la Red Natura 2000, incluidos robledales, madroñales y castañares centenarios. Todo el área afectada es una zona ornitólogica de interés mundial. Por su parte, el alcalde de la localidad cacereña de Hoyos, Óscar Antúnez, ha alabado la participación ciudadana en el municipio para ayudar a los operarios del plan Infoex como “lo bonito dentro de la tragedia” y ha añadido que el “sentir general” de los ciudadanos de Sierra de Gata es de “frustración e indignación” tras el incendio forestal. El alcalde ha señalado que ha podido hablar con los vecinos de la localidad y que los “más afectados” son los que han perdido fincas o casas de campo, sobre todo una familia que ha perdido su domicilio de vacaciones habitual, que era una casa “recién reformada”. Asimismo, Óscar Antúnez ha indicado que intentar llegar a la normalidad es “un tanto difícil”, y que ahora hay que hacer valoraciones de los daños, tanto la Mancomunidad de Municipios de Sierra de Gata como la Junta de Extremadura, para ver qué ayudas se pueden proporcionar y de qué modo, además de cuáles serán los medios disponibles. Por último, el primer edil de Hoyos ha explicado que los vecinos, “más allá de la lamentación”, deben intentar hacer “una vida normal”, aunque ha considerado que es muy difícil “dado el paisaje que tenemos”, ya que casi el 90% del término municipal está calcinado, ha indicado.