In the past few weeks we (at Farmers for Forests) have been witnessing a lot of forest fires in the areas where we work (Raigad and Gadchiroli). It’s pretty devastating to watch and we’re looking at ways of addressing the problem for next year’s fire season (March - May 2022), since it’s probably too late to do anything meaningful this year.
Rough estimates are that nearly 5-15% of the forest in our work areas is destroyed every year because of these fires. Some background on the situation from having some preliminary conversations in the communities and with forest department officials:
- Most of these fires are not scientifically planned fires done for the purposes of forest management and to increase growth of new trees and vegetation
- Most of the fires have anthropogenic causes (either intentional or unintentional)
- Intentional causes include better harvest for tendu patta leaves, ability to see mahua flowers easily on the burned forest flower, land clearance for agriculture, game meat hunting, etc
- Unintentional causes include smoking, cooking, etc
- Detection of the fires is usually not a problem - the forest department has a remote sensing mechanism in place to do this and communities often know where exactly their forests are burning - putting out the fires has been problematic
- Communities and the forest department work to put these fires out but often (1) the scale of the fires becomes too large quickly (2) the fires are in hard to reach places (like the top of hills, remote jungle areas or places where the terrain impedes easy access) (3) they lack the necessary infrastructure to be able to do this as effectively as they would like
Give this situation, we are:
- Hoping to connect with someone who has experience in forest fire management and prevention
- Hoping to crowd source solutions for what can be done in conjunction with forest dependant communities to reduce fire related forest loss in the next season. Some preliminary ideas we’re working on developing and need help with are (1) alternative harvesting techniques for tendu patta and mahua (2) collection of forest litter or ways to speed up forest litter decomposition (through addition of microbial cultures or other ways?)
If anyone has any other ideas or can connect us with someone they know working in this area - we’d be tremendously grateful! Thanks for reading!