Forest fire training for villagers helps to protect the Western Ghats
The training offered by the forest department and Raintree Foundation, a non-profit organisation, as part of the forest fire management project, made this feasible
In the last week of March, a forest fire was observed in Sakhargaon village in Velhe tehsil, which is part of northern Western Ghats. Immediately, some youths in the area who had previously undergone training to tackle the situation doused the fire, which otherwise would have caused significant damage to the environment.
The fire issue was brought under control rather quickly as a result of their quick response.
The training offered by the forest department and Raintree Foundation, a non-profit organisation, as part of the forest fire management project, made this feasible. As part of this effort, almost 200 villagers from nine villages have gotten training in the last year.
Forest fires are one of the most serious threats to the Western Ghats’ rich biodiversity. The Bhor forest range experienced six significant forest fires between March and April 2022, according to the Forest Survey of India’s real-time Forest Fire monitoring statistics. This year, the number of forest fires has been reduced to two between March and April 15.
According to forest experts, the majority of forest fires are caused by human mistakes, with misconceptions about agricultural practices frequently causing forest fires. The Western Ghats are similarly vulnerable to forest fires, according to a 2017 Forest Survey of India assessment.
To address this issue, the Pune Forest Department has been educating villages about the value of forests, their ecosystem, and how they can safeguard forests by preventing forest fires.
With the assistance of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) dedicated to biodiversity conservation, the department launched a forest fire management effort.
Over the previous two years, more than 200 residents from nine villages have been educated to prevent and control forest fires.
Speaking about the initiative Manoj Mahajan, forest Forest Conservator from Bhor Forest range said, “The early response is very important in case of a forest fire. The Forest department is effectively doing forest fire control work in the forest area. However, it has limits due to a lack of public participation. Forest fire management efforts can be done more efficiently with increased public participation. With the assistance of the Raintree Foundation, we are now trying to raise awareness about forest fire management in nine villages. Due to awareness and response from the villagers, the number of forest fires has reduced this year.’’
“Nowadays people realise the importance of the environment surrounding our village. They learned that forest conservation is our moral responsibility and that forest fires can be avoided if they can be more careful while burning the grass in their fields. Thanks to efforts done by the forest department and the NGO team, many changes have been seen in the village,” said Satyawan Renuse, sarpanch, Meravane-Fanshi village.
Rahul Walgude, head, Gunjan Maval Durg Rakshak Sangh, Velhe Tehsil, said, “Earlier the forest surrounding our village often suffered from forest fires. It has destroyed rare medicinal plants, animals, and insect species over the years. The forest and NGO team made us realise the importance of this ecology and how it may impact us in future if not conserved properly. I’ve seen a shift in the last two years, and many young people like me are stepping forward to conserve the forest and biodiversity here.”
Velhe, in the Northern Western Ghats, is a biodiversity hotspot as well as a UNESCO world heritage site, making it an important landscape for the foundation.
“Upon beginning work in this region four years ago, we found that human activity caused by forest fires was rampantly prevalent. It took a lot of effort over many years to change the community’s mindset through workshops, lectures, campaigns, and grassroots communication with the help of the forest department. This year, however, the community has become more willing to learn and be trained on preventing forest fires,” Leena Dandekar, founder of the Raintree Foundation said.