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Forest Fire Management
Dr. Banarsi Lal and Dr. Vikas Tandon6/26/2019 11:28:08 PM
Jammu and Kashmir is one of the mega bio-diversity states of India. The state is abundant with the unique and diversified floral and faunal wealth. With 20,441 sq.kms of forest cover, J&K is one of the richest areas of bio-diversity in India. J&K ranks 12th in respect of area under forest cover in India. The forests of the state are economically very rich and have great benefits. Jammu and Kashmir State is a forest rich state. Jammu and Kashmir state lies in the North West of the country, having total geographical area 222,236 sq.kms and its total population is 1,25,48,926(2011 census). About 19.95% of the total geographical area of the state is covered under forests. Ladakh region receives very less rainfall and is thus devoid of forests contributing only about 0.06% to the state forest area. Around 59% of the geographical area of the state is under permanent snow cover, glaciers and cold desert and thus unable to support trees growth. The national level goal in forestry is to cover at least two thirds of the total area in the hilly regions under forests and trees cover. Jammu and Kashmir regions forests account for 47% of the geographical area while Ladakh region is mostly devoid of tree cover. Jammu and Kashmir adopted its own forest policy to maintain adequate forests in various regions of the state in 2011. Jammu and Kashmir is one of the most beautiful tourists' destinations in the world. Forests were generally vested with the government especially after 1947 but usufruct rights of local communities, ethnic groups and tribes continued to be part of management. Irrespective of ownership, forests were treated as open or community resources of local population in the limited sense of traditional rights. J&K State is bestowed with different types of forests ranging from sub-tropical to moist temperate and alpines. Per capita forests and tree cover in the state is about 0.15 ha which is almost double the national average i.e. 0.07 ha. Around 40 per cent of the forest area in J& K state is either dense or very dense. 60% of the total forest area falls in Jammu region and rest falls in Kashmir region. Forests play a significant role for the sustenance of livelihood of rural and urban people. Forests are also important for power development, tourism, agriculture, horticulture etc.
Damage done by the forest fire can be mild or severe. Fire can damage the forest trees, forest soil, and natural herbs, reduces the productive capacity of the forests, affects the wild animals, damages the scenic beauty of the forests, damages various other organisms in the forests etc. In order to manage the forest fire some factors are really needed to be studied. Weather needs to be properly studied which determines the fire environment. Temperature and winds are very important factors for the forest fire. With the climate change rainfall pattern is also changing. If intermitted summer rains through westerly depressions are not there then it can be a major cause for forest fires. Forest fire do not occurs unless there is inflammable material such as dry grasses, shrubs, fallen leaves and fallen woods are available in the forest. The more the inflammable material available in the forest, the more severe will be the forest fire. Topography is another factor for the forest fire in the hilly areas. Fire spreads very fastly when it travels towards a hill slope but its spread slowly when it travels towards downhill.
Generally people think forest fire as normal fire and expect a quick control over it but actually it is very cumbersome to control and extinguish it especially from hilly areas. The fire usually starts naturally or intentionally from a particular spot in the forest area and then due to wind, inflammable material and topography spreads fast in one or another direction. The speed, direction of spread, extent and shape of fire depends on wind, inflammable material and topography. If the fast wind is not blowing in the area at the time of start of the fire then it spreads in all directions slowly and thus assumes a circular shape. But if the wind is blowing in a particular direction then the fire spreads in that direction fastly and in other directions slowly. If inflammable material is available on a particular side then fire spreads in that particular direction fastly and slowly in other directions. The spread of fire in a hilly terrain is further affected by topographic factors, particularly the slope.
Fire is the most destructive element. It can destroy all forms of life, can cause soil erosion, kills all micro-organisms and destroys the ecosystem that have been built up over a long period of time. There is need to devise and execute the strategies to control the fire. Forest fire can be managed through different methods. Well equipped control rooms needs to be established with connectivity by proving wireless sets, cell phones, transportation facilities etc. to the fire fighters. Proper training on forest fire management should be imparted to the concerned staff and local people, first aid kits for emergencies and tools, creation of fire lines and maintaining them in the subsequent years. There is need of the quick action to suppress the fire and the delay can be avoided by quick detection and quick communication. There is need to deploy local fire watchers during the fire season and proper communication facilities should be provided to them. There should an arrangement of tools, food, water and light for the concerned people as the process of fire extinguishing can take some days. There are various conventional methods for fire extinguishing such as by water, by soil, by fire beating etc. Now-a-days helicopters are also being used in the state to extinguish the fire which is a good initiative. While extinguishing fire there is need to bear non- synthetic fire proof clothing to protect the body from heat, use head gear and goggles from radiant heat, use footwear preferably leather boots, carry sufficient water to guard against desiccation by heat, carry first aid kit for emergencies, to plan for escape route in case of danger, to maintain communication between fire fighters. Satellite data may be of quiet significance to evolve new innovative techniques in the field of forest fire management. Along with the satellite data many field-based attempts can also be made at various levels to collect forest fire statistics in the state. There is need of serious efforts to overcome the problem and tackle the problem of forest fire in a more effective way.
A forest fire causes irreparable damage to wild life, biodiversity, water resources, forest based livelihoods and well being and changes heaven into hell within very less time. Fire control measures such as creation of fire lines, effective information and communication technologies (ICTs), defined responsibilities and introducing the incentives to the local communities living in the fringes of these forests for participation in the fire management must be developed. Training programmes with regard to fire fighting to government employees, local communities and interested rural youths/persons in order to create more awareness on causes and the control of forest fires should be arranged. Watch towers and other fire detecting systems should be developed in the state. Awareness campaigns on fire damage, prevention, detection and communication and suppression should be launched by involving schools, Joint Forest Management (JFM) committees, Non-Government and other voluntary organizations well before the onset of fire season every year. Wide publicity on forest fire management should be done through pamphlets, handouts, circulars, posters, TV, radio, video tapes etc. A fire management research and training institute for foresters and public should be established in the state for providing knowledge and skills. The forest officials are required to rehearsal and practice the fire suppression exercise involving the local community. Fire experiment stations should be set up in representative regions of the state to study various effects of fires in different ecosystems and provide extension services to the concerned areas. Adequate financial support on forest fire management should be provided to the concerned departments. Research and Development (R&D) institutions dealing with forest fire management should be strengthened. There is need of coordination of forest department with other agencies, whose support may be very important in forest fire management. Various seminars, training programs, conferences, study tours etc. should be organised on forest fire management. Awards for exemplary works in forest fire prevention, protection and suppression should also be distributed among the firefighters. Modern and effective tools and machineries for firefighting should be promoted.
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