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Posted at: May 2, 2016, 12:45 AM; last updated: May 2, 2016, 12:45 AM (IST)

Poor mgmt reason for forest fires: Experts

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 1

While environmentalists and activists are largely blaming the timber and land mafia for raging “manmade” forest fires in Uttarakhand and now Himachal Pradesh, they also fault the poor management of such expected “cyclic” events.

The lack of compliance of general management practices required to pre-empt such eventualities, which are now being further aggravated by climate change events — low rainfall, high temperatures and erratic wind patterns — are among the reasons why, they say, the hill states are facing the environmental catastrophes.

Dr Yogesh Gokhale, an ecologist with TERI, says ideally the forests floors should have been cleared of accumulated pine needles — a readymade combustion source — well in time, meaning well before the hot and dry season approaches.

“Fires have obviously been triggered by manmade circumstances like a burning beedi or a deliberate action. Therefore, forest floors should be cleared of pine needles with the help of early controlled burning,” he adds.

Since the shortage of forest staff is a perpetual problem, participation of local people and van panchayats should be encouraged for early detection, reporting and management of forest fires, the TERI ecologist says, adding while local participation may not be of much use if the act is deliberate, if land or timber mafia is involved or villagers themselves have started the fire to ward off wild animals, it may come useful in case of inadvertent cases.

Meanwhile, to manage the accumulated pine needles— one of the major causes of forest fires — ecologists advocate promotion of manufacture of pine needle briquettes—the freely available renewable energy source, Pine needles are an excellent form of energy and can be used to prepare biomass briquettes. Pine needles are a good source of environment-friendly fuel as they have combustion characteristics very similar to firewood, he says. 


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