Forest fires a burning issue as dry weather continues

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Buttala 04 (1)

forest fire at Rahathangala, Buttala

More than 150 forest fires have been reported last year from different parts of the country due to the prevailing drought and the same is repeated this year as the dry weather spark lots of forest fire. The latest fire was reported from Buttala Rahathangala, Lal Sarath Kumara Deputy Director Media, Disaster Management Centre (DMC) said. Last week, it was reported that nearly 600 acres of grassland of the Nonpareil Estate Reserve in Horton Plains had caught fire. In addition to a couple of major fires in Mihintale, Wadinagala forest reserve in Wellawaya and Kalaputuwawa forest in Walapane, smaller fires were reported from other areas, the Disaster Management Centre said adding that the situation could get worse with the weather getting drier.

The grassland areas of Badulla, Moneragala and Nuwara Eliya are the areas most prone to forest fires posing a threat to other plantations. In addition dry weather conditions can convert green vegetation into flammable fuel. Therefore even a simple spark can create a big forest fire. However, the reported fires were all man-made fires, either intentional or accidental. It is well known that poachers set fire to forest areas and grasslands to corner their prey while cattle herdsmen set fire to get fresh shoots of grass to feed their cattle.

Last year during this same period the Sunday Times reported that forest fires had destroyed more than 15,000 acres of forest area in various parts of the country. Commenting on the situation last year, forest expert Prof.Nimal Gunatilake said that a majority of the fires that occurred here was either in grassland areas or forest plantations such as Eucalyptus or Pinus. Therefore he added that the impact was not so great on our native forests or biodiversity. However, he said forest fires were a death trap to some slow-moving animals adding that fires were sometimes a part of the native ecology like in the case of Nilgala where some seeds need fire to germinate.

Meanwhile experts point out that prevention is the key solution to forest fires.

Main causes 

  • Throwing cigarette butts when travelling by train or walking through forests;
  • Burning of debris by workers maintaining highways and railway tracks without taking proper precautionary measures
  • Burning dead grass to obtain fresh grass for cattle. These fires often spread to nearby forests
  • Burning degraded forests for purposes of shifting cultivation
  • Setting fire to the forest by hunters to drive animals out

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/130825/news/forest-fires-a-burning-issue-as-dry-weather-continues-59474.html

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