Preventing forest fires through public involvement

Fire: Forest officials in Wangdue conducted an awareness campaign on forest fire management in schools and communities in Wangdue and Punakha, recently.

Wangdue and Punakha have had a high record of forest fire incidents in recent years, and as winter approaches, the threat of more forest fires looms large.

A forest official in Wangdue, Chencho Dendup, said they spent more than an hour in each school talking about forest fire management and raising awareness. Students were briefed on how to avoid using matches and were also encouraged to inform parents about forest fire management. “We told students about how their parents would be fined if the children were found to be involved in causing a forest fire,” Chencho Dendup said.

Forest officials have even created three community forest fire management groups in Chhubu and Rinchengang in Wangdue and Guma in Punakha. The forest fire management group in Rinchengang consists of 86 households and Jeligang in Chhubu of 30 households. Guma has 47 households in its group.

People were briefed about how to manage forest fires and its impact on the environment.

Registered group members can volunteer to fight forest fires and come up with forest fire prevention measures.

According to forest officials, creating awareness programmes and groups is necessary with the approach of dry winter season. “We also want to hand down the responsibility of the forest fire management to the public,” said Chencho Dendup.

For the first time a forest fire volunteer group has also been formed under the Wangdue forest division’s forest protection and enforcement section.

Chencho Dendup said the group currently has 70 registered forest fire volunteers which includes teachers, shopkeepers, saw-mill owners, Desuups, civil servants and locals  from Wangdue and Punakha.

“We are stressing on getting more such volunteers as having volunteer groups brings people from all walks of life with a common goal together to protect forests and fight forest fires through volunteerism,” said Chencho Dendup. Based on earlier experiences, not many volunteered to battle forest fires but with Desuups and such volunteer groups, more can be mobilised hereon, he said.

He added that they welcome all volunteers to register with the group.

The majority of the volunteer group members came to battle the recent forest fire in Athang.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue

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