The beginning of the year is known as the ‘season of fire’. This is a time when farmers in villages set fire on their lands to clear unwanted shrubs, dead wood or overgrowth and prepare their annual agricultural activities.
In doing this, slight neglect or carelessness on the part of the farmers could lead to serious fire devastation of the forest. Similarly, anyone who starts a fire in the forest intentionally or otherwise could cause a similar ecological catastrophe.
To sensitise the villagers about the danger posed by forest fire and to involve them in preventing and controlling wild fire, the Divisional Forest Office, Kamjong organised a one-day awareness campaign on ‘Prevention and Control of Forest Fire’ held at Phungyar block headquarters on Monday.
“This awareness campaign is timed to coincide with the start of the annual agricultural season when villagers normally light fire in the forest to clear their lands for cultivation of crops,” Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Kamjong SW Suisa said, giving a keynote address during the awareness campaign.
The forest officer highlighted that the forest department encouraged the villagers to be a good custodian of nature and protect the forests in their respective villages. “Towards this end, the forest department has initiated a move to provide cash incentive of Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1 lakh under different schemes like Forest Fire Management and Integrated Forest Management for each village that protects and conserves their forests,” he said.
He continued that the department was currently in the process of selecting some more villages under Kamjong district for awarding the cash incentive and added that several villages like Lungphu, Bungpa Khunou and others were provided with the cash incentive for their exemplary commitment in forest conservation last year.
He said that while natural fire accidents caused by lightning or high atmospheric temperature are rare, about 90 per cent of forest fire incidents are man-made and these happen due to human activities or neglect.
“This man-made fire could be due to shifting cultivation, use of fire by villagers to ward off wild animals, discarded lit cigarette butts or lighting fire for cattle crazing, collecting fuel wood, timber and other minor forest products or fires lit intentionally by communities living around forests for different reasons,” he said.
He also said that methane gas produced by fire is ten times more dangerous to both humans and environment than carbon dioxide, because it can disturb the presence of oxygen.
Educating or creating awareness among locals is crucial for prevention fire. “Which is why we have been focusing on involving public at the grassroots in the endeavour,” he said.
Stating that prevention of fire should come first in fire management, he urged the villagers to obey local laws against fire framed by respective villages.
He then asked the villagers not to start fire unnecessarily and to be careful with all flammable objects, burning charcoal and smoking materials and dispose them carefully.
At the same time, Suisa informed that forest department across the country has framed laws to punish anyone causing indiscriminate forest fire under National Security Act.
Retired RFO MC Ngachonmi also spoke about the effects of forest fire on the environment, biodiversity and the human population. “While we could lose certain valuable belongings to burglary, fire accidents could consume everything big or small,” he said, describing the extent of damages caused by fire.
A power point presentation was also made during the campaign demonstrating the large- scale devastation caused by the recent forest fire at Nagaland’s Dzokou valley bordering Manipur.
Phungyar headman Shimreishang Siro and a host of chiefs and village authority members from Phungyar area attended the day-long event which culminated with interactive discussion on preventing and controlling forest fire in the villages.