What we lack in combating forest fires?

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 Jun 2018 10:56:29


 

By Anshuman Bhargava,

Poor emolument outdated technology


In India also our forest staffers are inadequately armed, equipped and trained to ward off intruders and keep the forests safe. They are ill-paid, over-worked and under facilitated, which leaves our forests vulnerable and prone to illegal invasions

 

Another factor that plays the spoilsport is the lack of advanced technological wherewithal to stem a fire once it starts spreading. Due to lack of proper navigation and radar equipment we first fail to pick the signals of a new fire once it starts

As the heat of summer hits its peak, there have been widespread reports of forest fires. These forest fires are a global problem, combating which is a headache for even the most technologically advanced countries.


In India too, we have seen a spurt in forest fires in the last few years. There are multiple reasons as to how and why a forest fire ignites. One of them is certainly human interference or rather intrusion in the forest space and their neglectful or detrimental activities like burning trash or smoking and throwing away the smouldering butt carelessly, which lead to fires. Indian summers are specifically dry and volatile, where even the smallest spark can cause unprecedented damage to forestry.


At times, there is also a lightning bolt that strikes a tree and leads to fires. In dry forests, fire spreads fast through strewn dry leaves and dried tree branches. In summers, all moisture and water bodies dry up, which, in turn, makes it conducive for the ignition and spread of fires. Once a fire catches, it is very difficult to tame it in quick time.


The greatest problem is that it is hard to locate a fire and reach it until it grows into big enough a burning cauldron to be tracked and noticed. By then, the damage is considerable. In India, the incidents of human movement in forest areas are more widespread and frequent. Forests are under immense pressure from a growing human population that is fast exceeding its periphery and spilling out of its habitations into forest land. Burgeoning human needs for space and natural resources is leading to constant exploitation and harnessing of forest resources.


Somewhere the burnt has to be borne. In India also, our forest staffers are inadequately armed, equipped and trained to ward off intruders and keep the forests safe. They are ill-paid, over-worked and under facilitated, which leaves our forests vulnerable and prone to illegal invasions. Another factor that plays the spoilsport is the lack of advanced technological wherewithal to stem a fire once it starts spreading. Due to lack of proper navigation and radar equipment, we first fail to pick the signals of a new fire once it starts. Then once it is picked, we cannot marshal all our resources at one place and in quick time to materialise a coordinated and concerted action. There are several departments who need to come on the same page and work in unison, which hardly happens here. There is no immediate response team in place.

There are permissions to be taken, files to be approved, bosses to be contacted and informed of the modalities, people to be engaged, duties to be distributed, legalities checked, only after which things start moving. Then there are holidays, leaves, offs, delays and derelictions associated with the Government working. All this complicated work process and inter-department clashes cause valuable time loss and by the time we get our acts together, it is already too late to make much amends. This leads to the ominous proportions to which wildfires grow. We don’t have choppers ready and designated for the job to spread water or dousing materials from atop. But more than the technology, it is always the way of approach we adopt. Unless we set our response to disasters right, no amount of expensive equipment or machinery can make things happen. Human control and management are all.