Almost half of the forest area razed in the country was reported in Wangdue 

Forest: Fires razed the largest acres of forest in the country last year.

Forest fires burnt 45,095 acres of forests during the fiscal year 2013-14, almost four times from the 12,175 it damaged in 2012-13, according to the Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) annual statistics 2015.

Forest fire is one of the prominent causes of forest degradation in the country.

On average, fires damaged 19, 844 acres of forests between 2010 and 2014.

Bhutan recorded 64 forest fires last year, almost double from the 34 in 2013 indicating that the impact of forest fires was greater last year.

Despite stringent legislation and public awareness programmes, the report states that forest fire has persisted as a major environmental problem in Bhutan. The forest department in the last four years recorded an average of 45 forest fire incidences.

Forest area burnt between the period 2010 to 2014

Forest area burnt between the period 2010 to 2014

Occurrences of forest fires depend on local factors like rainfall and humidity, vegetation and microclimatic aspects, human presence and agricultural practices among others, the report states.

However, the extent of damage caused is directly guided by the rate of detection and response tactics which may include mobilisation of fire fighters and approach towards firefighting, environmental factors like wind, moisture and vegetation type that act to increase or decrease spread of fire, it states.

“High number of forest fire occurrences does not always necessarily mean higher area damage,” the report stated. For instance, while Thimphu dzongkhag saw the highest number of forest fire incidences, the acreage damage is relatively moderate compared to other dzongkhags.

Often, this can be associated to the fact that Thimphu has more support from other sectors like the armed forces, forest fire volunteers and desung volunteers in terms of fire fighters. In addition, accessibility to forest fire is facilitated by the existence of numerous approach roads, while this may not be the case in other dzongkhags.

In Bhutan, forest fire season usually starts from October and lasts until June. This is the time of high risks, the report states, since there is minimum atmospheric moisture and the weather is relatively dry throughout, except during winters in certain dzongkhags when it snows.

Cases of forest fires have even been reported in August in some western regions. The length of the dry season determines the longevity of the fire season and are mutually proportional, the report states.

Records with the forest department show that most forest fire outbreaks are in February and March and the period through November until March is a high-risk stage for forest fire in Bhutan.

Dzongkhag wise, Wangdue suffered the most damage with 22,914 acres of forests destroyed last year, which is about half of the country’s total area of destruction.

Dagana, Tsirang, Punakha and Pemagatshel did not report any incidence of forest fire last year.

MB Subba


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