The Socio Economic and Cultural Background of Forest Fires

While many of the publications cited above contain information on fire causes, there are only few in-depth studies available on the socio-economic and cultural aspects of managing the fire problem. The forest fire management system in Thailand has its strong base on a fire prevention approach which is being realized by a close cooperation with the local population (cf. Contribution by S. Akaakara, this volume). The same refers to the IFFM approach in Indonesia (cf. Contribution by H. Abberger, this volume; see also the work of Otsuka [1991] on forest management and farmers in East Kalimantan). A basic study on the socio-economic and cultural background of forest fires in the pine forests of the Philippines was conducted in the late 1980s and reveals the usefulness of such surveys for further management planning (Noble, 1990).

Despite the initial efforts it must be stated that there is a tremendous gap of expertise and available methodologies of socio-economic and cultural approaches in integrating people into operational fire management systems.

According to the IFFN (2002) the ecological and socio-economic consequences of wild land fires in India include -

• Loss of timber, loss of bio-diversity, loss of wildlife habitat, global warming, soil erosion, loss of fuelwood and fodder, damage to water and other natural resources, loss of natural regeneration. Estimated average tangible annual loss due to forest fires in country is Rs.440 crore (US$ 100 millions approximately).

• The vulnerability of the Indian forests to fire varies from place to place depending upon the type of vegetation and the climate. The coniferous forest in the Himalayan region comprising of fir (Abies spp.), spruce (Picea smithiana), Cedrus deodara, Pinus roxburghii and Pinus wallichiana etc. is very prone to fire. Every year there are one or two major incidences of forest fire in this region. The other parts of the country dominated by deciduous forests are also damaged by fire (see Table 1).

Various regions of the country have different normal and peak fire seasons, which normally vary from January to June. In the plains of northern and central India, most of the forest fires occur between February and June. In the hills of northern India fire season starts later and most of the fires are reported between April and June. In the southern part of the country, fire season extends from January to May. In the Himalayan region, fires are common in May and June.

Table 2. Susceptibility and vulnerability of Indian forests to wildfire (IFFN, 2002)

Type of Forests

Fire Frequent (%)

Fire Occasional (%)

Coniferous

8

40

Moist Deciduous

15

60

Dry Deciduous

5

35

Wet/Semi-Evergreen

9

40

North-Eastern Region

50

45

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