Report calls for community engagement in managing forest fires

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While every year about 60% of districts in India gets affected by forest fires, top 20 fire affected districts account for about half (48%) of the total fire affected area, a report has said.

The report, “Strengthening Forest Fire Management in India”, jointly prepared by the World Bank and Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) said that regeneration is absent in 45 per cent of all forest areas and about 95 per cent of all forest plots inventoried show some signs of degradation.

“Forest fires are a challenge across many countries. They lead to the loss of lives and livelihoods for people directly dependent on forest produce,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India.

Recognizing the fact that people will continue to use forest fire, and that some fire is desirable, the report called for engaging with the communities that depend on forests and involving them in the decision-making process.

While there are several innovative mechanisms for forest management and fire prevention and control in different states, the report said states can learn from each other’s experiences to make these systems more effective.

 Madhya Pradesh was the first state to develop an SMS-based system to alert field staff about active forest fires in their area by using satellite data. Odisha has pioneered the use of fire suppression equipment. Mizoram, Tripura and Madhya Pradesh have effectively involved the community in preventing forest fires.

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