By Akshit Awasthi, intern
After three weeks, working on the project of awareness regarding Forest Fires, I visited villages around the Banjar area. To gain more knowledge and to spread awareness among the local community, Dhabas, Tea Shops to show the people about our Stop Forest Fires campaign and discussing about the natural causes on our environment by these fires.
At my first field work, I visited village Ropa, in the ecozone of GHNP and another two villages Kalwari and Dari which are in Tirthan Valley. These were villages which recently got affected by severe forest fires. The interaction with the villagers here gave me some important information and a deep look into the issue; Villagers have varied opinion about the fire and are only ready to act when the fires reach near to the village, Burning waste crops on the fields sometimes causes these fires, Burning of the forests destroy the grazing areas for cattle and sheep, Increased number of fires directly affects the availability of water often leading to the destruction of water source, Ancient beliefs and practices are one of the major causes as villagers believe burning the dry grass is necessary for the regeneration of the forests, Villagers need proper awareness programmes to educate and understand the severity of the issue.
Myself with Stephan (HET) and Maghar Singh (Range Officer, Banjar) educating villagers about forest fires and their consequences
After studying this project and we found that how to control these forest fires as follows; Degradation of catchment area, Loss of valuable timber resource, Loss of biodiversity and extinction of flora and fauna, Health problems or breathing problem, Prevention of natural regeneration and reduction in forest causing global warming, Loss of wild life habitat and depletion of wild life. The few methods by which we can add local people to work with us on our campaign by the co-ordination with Himalayan Ecotourism. We need local community to join their hands with us by which we can have sufficient people with leafy green boughs to beat the fire out, Increasing emphasis on training, research and education, The early detection and warn system through a coordination system of observation points, efficient ground patrolling and communication network with community. Preventing fires by educating the local community. Increasing the local community participation in joint management for forest fires.
Forest fires in these areas are the biggest threat to the booming tourist activity and also to the life of the people in the valley. Intentional forest fires causing destruction to the pristine alpine forests of the valley and its wildlife population as well, animals and birds have started migrating in numbers to different locations due the fires. This also creates visual pollution as well as air pollution which can cause different respiratory diseases as well. Forest fires directly affects the water resources and reduces rainfall as well as snow fall. There are illegal cutting of trees which is made easy by lighting fires and there no strict actions taken against it by the authorities. As a social enterprise, we at the Himalayan Ecotourism are trying to make people aware about the harmful effects of these fires in the future as well as encouraging them to take necessary actions against the fires.