IUCN has helped establish the first forest fire control system in Pakistan, as it handed over the fire control system to the KP government today, at a ceremony organized in Islamabad. The system was established as part of the Sustainable Forest Management project currently underway at IUCN, with the aim to help control forest fire in natural coniferous forest. The centre will be located in Shinkiari, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and will be able to provide service in the neighboring area.
Frequent forest fires in extreme hot weathers destroy healthy thick forest covers very rapidly.
Besides direct loss to forest cover, forest fire also affects wildlife, damages the environment, degrades soil quality and retrogrades forest regeneration. In historical times, forests throughout the world have remained vulnerable to fire.
Fire always causes many direct or indirect effects on the forest ecosystem. Some of these effects are short term, while others have longer-term effects such as damage to growing stock of forests, loss of biodiversity, increase in soil erosion, scorching of soil, reduction in soil permeability/water retaining capacity and volatilization of the nutrients like nitrogen. Forest fires wreak havoc on human beings both in terms of loss of life and damage to property; and it also puts at risk the lives of the forest department staff that tries to control it without the needed forest fire-fighting equipment.
In an effort to curtail Forest Fires and mitigate losses, IUCN Pakistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Department have joined hands together for an activity, planned under the Sustainable Forest Management project funded by GEF-UNDP and implemented by the Ministry of Climate Change, Government of Pakistan. This also serves as an opportunity to address the Climate Change issues, particularly focused on Forest Ecosystem. The equipment handed over to the Forest Department included:
The Back Pack Fire Fighting Pumps with water bag of 20 liters, Fire Rakes, Fire Beaters, Fire Brooms (in steel), Pick Axe, Shovels and Fire Extinguishers will be used to beat the fire. The Safety Helmets, Gas Masks, Safety Goggles, Water Bottles (Travel), Head Torches, First Aid Boxes, Safety Gloves, Safety Shoes, Fire Resistant Dresses will be to ensure the safety of Fire Fighters to do their job well. This centre being the first of a kind will be an example for other provinces to ensure the precious forest resource of Pakistan.
Mr. Mahmood Akhtar Cheema, Country Representative IUCN Pakistan addressed the issue of forest fires and placed special emphasis on equipping forest fire fighters with the required equipment to efficiently control fire.
Muhammad Siddique Khan, Chief Conservator Forests, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Department and Mr. Azhar Ali, Conservator Forest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa appreciated the initiative and said, “This activity will strengthen the capacity of KP Forest Department and its Fire Fighting Staff in controlling the forest fires effectively, that will ultimately result in addressing the climate change challenges in Pakistan”.