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HOW HIMALAYAN STATES CAN FIGHT AGAINST FOREST FIRES



  Jun 24, 2024

HOW HIMALAYAN STATES CAN FIGHT AGAINST FOREST FIRES



Current Situation

Himalayan states are experiencing widespread forest fires, with significant incidents reported annually, leading to extensive damage to forest land and wildlife. These fires result in the loss of tree cover and contribute to environmental degradation.

Causes of Forest Fires

Natural and Human Factors

• Pre-monsoon Dryness: Fires often occur during the pre-monsoon period when moisture levels are low due to depleted snowmelt.
• Human Activities: Unattended campfires and discarded cigarettes are common causes.
• Pollutants: Fires release black carbon, accelerating glacier melt and affecting regional climate.

Historical Context

• Railway Construction Impact: Starting in the 1850s, extensive railway construction led to significant deforestation.
• Commercial Exploitation: Forests have been exploited for timber and resin, particularly Chir pine trees, which are highly flammable.

Necessary Actions

Democratise Forest Management

• Community Involvement: Integrate local communities into forest management to ensure rapid response to fires.
• Traditional Rights: Restore and respect the traditional rights of Himalayan dwellers, allowing them to extract wood for fuel, timber, fodder, and other activities.
• Community Assent: Ensure community assent for development activities as required under Schedule V of the Indian Constitution.

Scientific and Community Collaboration

• Mixed Forestry: Promote mixed forestry to replace highly flammable pine trees with species like Banj oak, which retain more moisture and are less prone to fires.
• Water Management: Implement check dams and other methods to revive water springs, enhancing moisture retention in forests.
• Environmental Services: Establish environmental services at the village level to monitor and manage forest health.

Policy and Financial Support

• Disaster Mitigation Funds: Articulate the need for additional support from the ongoing 16th Finance Commission for disaster mitigation and forest management.
• Participatory Management: Ensure that forest management is conducted in a participatory manner, combining scientific knowledge with traditional practices.

Conclusion

The Himalayan states must adopt a multi-faceted approach to combat forest fires. By democratizing forest management, integrating community and scientific efforts, and seeking policy and financial support, these states can better protect their forests and reduce the occurrence and impact of forest fires.


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