The new approach is working according to officials

Disaster: After numerous advocacy programmes failed to curb forest fire in Trashigang, a religious approach on the same is doing wonders.

The dzongkhag administration with support from the dratshang is advocating villagers on how forest fires affect sentient beings and thereby accumulate sins. Besides, farmers are also being educated on the importance of conserving forests.

Lead by the Lam Neten, a team comprising forestry and dzongkhag officials has visited Udzorong and Yangnyer gewogs since last year.

Udzorong, which records the maximum number of forest fire in the dzongkhag, reported only one incident last year. Although December marks the peak month for forest fire, the gewog has not reported any incident so far this year.

“In the past, Udzorong would see multiple forest fire every year. After Lam Neten shared the religious perspective, villagers have understood and forest fire incidents have dropped,” Udzorong gup, Tenzin Tshewang said.

The gup said a huge number of people usually turn up for advocacy programmes linked to religious sentiments.

“Through such approach, we are able to reach out to more people while villagers take it seriously,” he said.

Last year, the programme saw over 2,000 villagers attending.

Range officer with Trashigang range office, Kinga Norbu said that unless people realize the adverse affects of forest fires, such incidents is bound to continue.

“Every gewog in Trashigang reports forest fire at least once a year. To reduce such incidents, the community must come forward,” he said. “Although we haven’t been able to apprehend culprits, human activity is a prime cause of forest fire.”

For instance, he said most forest fire occur when villagers light fires to hunt for wasps or burn their fields for a better harvest next time.

“When one side of the forest is on fire this year, next year the fire starts from another side. This goes to show villagers start the fire intentionally,” Kinga Norbu said. “The religious approach could be a solution to forest fires.”

There are also some who are also skeptical if such advocacy programmes would bring much of a difference in the long run.

“Even if 99 percent of villagers understand the adverse affects of forest fires, the remaining one percent could be involved,” Kanglung gup, Kinzang Dorji said.

Hence, support from the community become crucial, forestry officials said.

“But villagers are reluctant to help us extinguish forest fires because there are no compensation from the government to those who die combatting fires,” a forestry official said.

The dzongkhag administration is hopeful that the advocacy programme would prove effective in other gewogs as it did at Udzorong.

“We recently conducted an advocacy programme at Yangnyer. We will be taking it to other gewogs as well,” Trashigang dzongrab, Pema Dorji said.

Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang