Choki Wangmo 

With increasing forest fire reports from other dzongkhags, foresters in Tsirang went door-to-door to create awareness of forest fires in the past three days.

The three-day campaign started on the birthday anniversary of His Royal Highness The Gyalsey and covered more than 400 households in fire-prone gewogs: Rangthangling, Tsholingkhar, Phuentenchhu, Tsirangtoed, and Sergithang.

Senior forestry officer with Tsirang division, Chimi Dorji, said that some parts of the dzongkhag like Tsirangtoed and Sergithang gewogs have chirpine forest, hence, is fire-prone. “It is important we create awareness and advocate behaviourial change among people living in the risk areas.”

The officials from the division also monitored forest fire risks during the advocacy programme.

The dzongkhag experienced a major forest fire incident in 2019, burning 292 hectares of forest in Norbugang chiwog, Sergithang.

Recent records with the Forest Protection and Enforcement Division showed that Bhutan experienced 50 forest fire incidents on average in a year from 1992 to 2021, losing about 500 acres of forest in a year on average.

Most of the cases happened between mid-December and March-end. Haa, Paro, Thimphu, Wangdue, Bumthang, Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, and Pemagatshel had higher risks of forest fires.

The forest fires in Bhutan are human-induced as the fire use is customary in agricultural land preparation, illegal hunting, charcoal making, burning farm debris, insect, and weed removal, among others. Other major causes include careless smokers, campers and picnickers, roadside bitumen burning, and spark due to electrical short circuits from power transmission lines in the forests.

The Asian Forest Cooperation Organisation recommended investing more in adaptation and mitigation programmes and promoting community-based forest fire fighting groups. It also recommended adopting fire management approaches that limit impacts on the environment and the communities.

Last month, the de-suups in collaboration with the Department of Forests and Park Services advocated forest fire prevention to more than 1,000 homes in Thimphu during the three-day campaign.