FIJI: THE high incidence of uncontrolled burning of forests has become a major concern for Government, says Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management, Inia Seruiratu.
Mr Seruiratu made the comment at a two-day workshop on national forest fire management held at the Shangri La Fijian Resort and Spa yesterday.
“Loss of forests because of fire causes loss of biodiversity, both above and below ground, and it accelerates soil erosion, which is causing siltation and drying up of our streams,” he said.
“Frequent burning of our landscape has badly degraded affected land to the extent that it will take longer for the land to recover.”
He said Fiji’s forest covers about 58 per cent of land area.
“These forests which consist 85.3 per cent of natural forests, and about 7.4 per cent plantations of mainly exotic species, make important contributions to the social, environmental, economic and cultural wellbeing of our people.
“However, uncontrolled fires is a major concern and is threatening the survival of our remaining forests.”
Mr Seruiratu said forest fires would have adverse effects on the tourism industry.
“Persistent smoke from fires in the cane belt is also a risk to human health, especially where people have respiratory problems.
“In addition, repeated burning of the same area will lead to longer-term land degradation, which will reduce our ability to feed our population and will threaten national food security as well as sustainable development.
“People need to take care of the environment because it will take care of us.”
About 30 participants from both Government and non-government organisations were part of the workshop aimed at creating a draft forest fire management strategy for Fiji.
The workshop was led by a technical team from the Institute of Foresters of Australia, Foresters without Borders (FwB) group and forms part of activities under the $F$22 million REFOREST Fiji project, funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC).
The major objectives of the workshop are to raise awareness, increase knowledge of, and share experiences about, forest fires and rural fires in general.