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Posted On : 30 Mar, 2017  Source : PTI  Place : New Delhi 
Prevention of forest fires should be taught in schools: report
Management and prevention of forest fires should be taught in schools, a citizens' report has recommended while exhorting that local forest officials should be held accountable for such disasters.

The report has also recommended formation of special investigation teams while demanding that a white paper on forest fires should be issued by the government.

The report also highlighted the need for setting up of an insurance tribunal to provide compensation to families affected by forest fires while asserting the process of formation and empowerment of forest rights committees at the village level should be expedited under the Forest Rights Act.

"A systematic mechanism of control over all activities in the forest area and all authority is in the hand of Forest Department. If there is any incident of forest fire, officials responsible for the particular forest area should be held accountable and action should be taken against them.

"In order to enhance the interest of students towards forest fire crisis and to ensure youth participation in preventing forest fire in future, the topic of forest fire management and prevention should be included in the syllabus," the report titled - 'Vanagni Sankat se Jujhta Himalay, Uttarakhand Vanagni-2016, Ek Nagarik Report' said.

Natural Resources Knowledge and Activists Hub, Actionaid and Himalaya Seva Sangh have compiled suggestions, learning and experiences of the Himalayan communities on forest fires which took place in 2016 and compiled it as a report.

Officials of the organisations said that in 2016 till July, around 2,069 forest fires took place in Uttarkhand alone, highest in areas in and around Nainital district while ten people lost their lives.

Noting that the incidents of forest fire are increasing rapidly, the groups said that every year during the month of February to July first week, incidents of such fires have been received from entire country including Uttarakhand, Himachal, and Jammu and Kashmir.

"The efforts for increasing interest of youth towards nature and the environment need to be encouraged on a broad scale. There is a need to create an atmosphere to start research and study process in universities and colleges to assess forest damage.

"As an active and effective resource for schools and colleges, National Cadet Corps (NCC), National Service Scheme (NSS) and scouts and guides are better groups, these students groups should also be included in the management of forest fires, the report said.

To help beneficiaries get proper and timely support by government, relief courts should be formed and activated, it further recommended. 

"Forest fire has not been considered as a natural disaster despite a large loss per year. Because of this, there are no proper efforts to prevent forest fire.

"It is important that the government recognises forest fire as a natural and national calamity that it can be taken seriously and training and resources for various techniques of preventing, extinguishing and managing forest fire can be provided," it said.

The report also sought an amendment in existing forest- related laws while demanding restoration of forest rights of people. Forest security committees in villages should be formed under the panchayats and their actions should be clearly determined, it recommended.

The bodies said it was felt that the experience gathered from all the campaigns held earlier regarding the forest fire issue in the Himalayan belt be explained to the mass population in a holistic manner which is why, the citizens report was prepared after compiling insights of discussions, meetings and recommendations of seminars organised at various places.