Despite stern legislation and public awareness programmes in place to
curb forest fires, still the problem persists as it tops the list of threats
to the country’s forest coverage. Forest fires are a major environmental
problem in Bhutan.
There were 36 incidences of forest fires in 2010 alone which burned up more
than 9162.81 acres of natural forests in the country.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) said the main causes of the
fires are burning of agricultural debris by farmers who do not follow the proper
procedures and guidelines.
Tandin Dorji from the forest fires management section of MoAF said farmers
do not have the proper equipment to battle forest fires. “They do not monitor
the debris burning and leave as it is, unattended and they do not suppress the
fire at the end properly and while there is wind blowing the fire is carried away
to the nearby places causing forest fires,” he explained.
The second most common cause of forest fire is due to children playing with
fire near the forest areas. The short circuiting of electric wires is also another
cause of forest fires in Bhutan.
Explaining about short circuits, Tandin Dorji said, “When an electric pole is
being step up, the electrician is supposed to clear the line corridor up to 6 meters
or else till 9 meters if possible. We had an understanding with the Bhutan Power
Corporation (BPC) that they would clear the line corridor to avoid forest fires,
but in many cases it is not happening.”
Mass awareness campaigns have been conducted on how to safely burn the
agricultural debris before the onset of the fire season.
Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Wangdue Phodrang, Lhuentse, Trashigang, and
Bumthang are the districts in the country which are prone to forest fires.
The forest fire management strategy developed by the department of forests
and park services has incorporated both the beneficial as well as the harmful
effects of forest fires to the ecosystem, and the use of fire as an important land
management tool and recommended community based management of fire by
involving the local communities, volunteers, and religious leaders.
It is hoped that this innovative strategy of incorporating all possible tactical
options would be useful in managing forest fires in the country so that the
valuable forests, lives and properties of the people, important ecosystems are
protected as well as the communities can still have the opportunity to use fire
for their land management activities in the rural areas.
With the implementation of the strategies, the department would be able to
reduce the number of forest fires in the country and save many acres of valuable
forests in future.
Between 2010 and 2011, a total of 49 incidences were recorded with 10,139
acres of forest area consumed by fire.
Forest fire recorded in nine years
Year No. of Incidence Areas burn
2001 64 14644.16
2002 46 5425.99
2003 40 2711.21
2004 67 7965.51
2005 37 19580.683
2006 47 56280.747
2007 45 9617.17
2008 70 4501.33
2009 49 9162.81