Goa is Burning: Centre says eco loss minimal

Since 05th March 2023, forest fires have been detected in Goa, in various areas including forests, private areas, plantations, revenue lands, etc. As Goa’s forests continued to burn, the Forest Department of Goa in close co-ordination with the other line departments like Directorate of Fire and Emergency Services, has been addressing the local occurrences of fires on topmost priority.

The state’s forest minister Vishwajit Rane said that it was only a ‘ground fire’ and by and large didn’t engulf the large trees. He said the fire was a case of arson, probably arising out of either a human-lit fire that went out of control or that was accidentally hit by a spark.

The administration called the Indian Navy for help, who conducted an aerial survey and reported that fires were blazing in at least eight locations within the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary including the villages of Satrem, Chorla, Charvane, Querim among others.

Use of Geospatial Technologies

Geospatial technological tools and techniques have been very effectively used in forest fire management in Goa. FSI (Forest Survey of India) has used real-time monitoring alerts so that field-functionaries immediately reach there to attend to the fires. The following steps have been taken by the Department to address the forest fire situation:

  • 24×7 Control room for Real-time Monitoring of fire: A 24×7 Control Room was established for real-time monitoring of the alerts generated by FSI. Exact geo-coordinates and maps of fire locations were shared with the field functionaries on real-time basis to immediately attend to the fires.
  • Aerial support from Indian Air Force and Indian Navy for forest fire management: Two helicopters of Indian Air Force and Indian Navy were continuously carrying out regular aerial recce of the forest areas to ascertain the extent of fire across the state. Drones were also being used for assessment of the extent of active fire areas. Further, in the case of inaccessible areas, the Indian Navy/IAF also extended aerial support in dousing the fire through helibuckets.
  • Forest Area divided into sectors DCF / ACF level officers made as incharge for monitoring the fire situation: The impacted areas were divided into sectors and duties were assigned to DCF and ACF level officers to immediately attend to the fires, for intensive management of forest fires in close coordination with line departments. More than 750 people were on the field to attend to the fire incidences on war footing.
  • Unauthorized entries banned, Strict Enforcement of Forest and Wildlife laws to prevent entry: To check and prevent unauthorized entries into the forest areas, specific directions were also given to the DCFs to ensure and strictly enforce the forest laws, as applicable and that matter be flagged to Police Department for investigation at their levels as well.
  • Co-ordination with Line Departments: Joint teams, in coordination with District Collector (North)/(South), Police Department, District Disaster Management Authority, Directorate of Fire and Emergency Services, local community, including PRI were deployed on field for immediate management of the fire incidences on war-footing.
  • Collectors requested to activate Disaster Management Machinery: Communications were also made with DC (North/South) and SP (North/South) including the Director (Fire and Emergency Services) to activate the Disaster Management machinery at their respective jurisdiction and issue instructions to the responsible officials for prevention and control of fire.
  • Public Outreach through print, electronic and social media platforms: To generate awareness on Forest Fires amongst the public at large, preventive and control measures in the form of Dos and Don’ts were being disseminated.
  • Inquiry ordered to ascertain reasons/causes for Fire at each location: All the concerned DCFs were directed to conduct a detailed enquiry into each of the fire incidences.
  • Forest Fire Prevention Measures intensified: The field executives and the teams attended to the fire by cutting off the fuel to fire through creation of fire lines and fire breaks, beating of bushes, counter firing, and clearing the leaf litter.
  • As a precautionary measure to check the reoccurrence of fires, all the sites where fire has been doused are being monitored regularly to control it immediately.

As per the reports received from the field, 48 fire spots were detected and attended to by the field executives in close coordination with line departments and the local public, including PRIs (Panchayati Raj Institutions).

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