Punjab launches forest protection scheme to control forest fires

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Chandigarh, May 7 (UNI) Punjab Forest Department has launched a integrated forest protection scheme to prevent and control forest fires in the state.

Punjab Forest Minister Tikshan Sud while reviewing the activities of the Forest Department regarding prevention and control of forest fires in a meeting attended by senior forest Officers, said the state government had constructed 97 fire watch towers mainly in hilly areas under Punjab Afforestation Project for timely detection and control of forest fires.

He said that under this scheme 1000 km of fire lines, four water storage structures each of one lakh liter capacity and one fire tender had been provided for proper prevention and control of forest fires.

Punjab's chief conservator of forests B C Bala informed that during the current fire season, 124 fires had already been reported affecting 6537.4 hac forest area of the state. Due to these fires, 56 trees and 7150 other saplings were affected. The estimated loss on account of damage to trees was about Rs 56,000 and damage to plants Rs 3,50,000.

He said that forest fire season generally commences from April 1 and extends upto June 15. During the fire season fires occur due to abundance of dry and highly inflammable biomass such as grass, leaves, twigs in the forest.

The incidences and intensity of fires are cyclical in nature.

Generally, there is a five to six year cycle of periodicity of high incidences of forest fire. Last time it was during the year 2002-03.

Mr Bala further informed that this year, whole of North India ie Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttranchal and Punjab had been ravaged by forest fires.

Most of the fires that occur in the state forests are "ground fires" which do not cause much damage to the trees but young plantations suffer considerable damage from such fires, he said.

The Minister instructed that needful instructions be issued to all the field staff to be well prepared before the start of fire season. "Extensive fire prevention measures should be taken up to prevent fires and minimise damage in the event of the occurrence of fire," he said adding that training in fire protection should be imparted to the staff in new fire fighting techniques and awareness camps be organised for educating people especially Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs).

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