Bid to prevent forest fire during mahua collection
15 February 2017
published by http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com
India — BHUBANESWAR: Desperate times call for desperate
measures. To prevent forest fire that is largely triggered by mahua flower
collection in Baisipalli sanctuary under Mahanadi wildlife division, the
authorities have planned proper collection of the forest produce. Mahua flowers
are used to make country liquor.
Traditionally, the mahua flowers are collected from the ground in March-April when they fall from the tree automatically. But, the shedding of leaves from the trees cover the flowers and the villagers burn them to separate the flowers, which are not affected by the fire. This practice causes massive fire in the forests, prompting authorities to form fire prevention squads.
Divisional forest officer (Mahanadi division) Anshu Pragyan Das said apart from forming a woman squad of forest personnel to monitor the women mahua collectors, they have trained the villagers to use large nets to fix them under the trees so that the flowers fall on them.
"We have trained the villagers to collect the flowers before shedding of leaves. This won't require setting the forest on fire."
To check spread of fire, the authorities have planned to create a fire line to break the continuation. "The dry leaves will be swept and kept at a gap of around 10ft. The gathered leaves will then be burnt in the presence of forest personnel," Das said.
Besides, water tankers will be stationed at vulnerable pockets such as areas adjoining human habitations. Other fire-fighting machines will also be used to help douse fire.
Official sources said they will use the service of eco-development committee (EDC) members, who are selected villagers to help forest department conserve wildlife and forest, to spread awareness among people not to burn dry leaves for collecting mahua flowers.
Another reason of forest fire is accidental which results from reckless use of cigarettes and matchsticks by villagers and tourists. The sanctuary has high terrains and once fire spreads, it becomes difficult for forest personnel to venture into the forest. Also, it is not possible to seek help of fire tenders as they can't access the area, said a senior wildlife officer.
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In total, they are willing to pay US$643.5 million (RM2.8 billion) a year — large enough to make a “substantive impact on the problem” if used for land conservation and restoration, the researchers state in a paper published in February’s issue of the journal, Environmental Research Letters.
The paper’s authors, Yuan Lin, Lahiru Wijedasa and Dr Ryan Chisholm, wrote: “Our results indicate that Singaporeans experience sufficiently negative impacts of air pollution (in) their day-to-day life, or personal health during haze periods, that they are willing to trade off personal financial gain for improvements in air quality.”
Transboundary haze is a long-standing problem in the South-east Asian region, largely caused by the drainage of carbon-rich peatland as well as companies and farmers in Indonesia using fire to clear land.
Singapore experienced its worst haze episode in 2015 from September to November, with the Pollutant Standards Index hitting hazardous levels.
Since then, Indonesia has renewed efforts to prevent fires, although a state of emergency was declared last month in Riau province over forest and land fires.
The economic impact of haze pollution here has been estimated using cost-benefit analysis before, but the researchers said that the figures could be an under-estimate because they exclude impacts — such as non-hospitalisable health effects — that are difficult to infer from economic data.
The 2015 haze episode was estimated to have cost Singapore S$700 million (RM2.19 billion) in losses.
The NUS researchers surveyed 390 people in public areas from November 2015 to February 2016 on their willingness to pay, should the Singapore Government be able to guarantee good air quality year-round.
The participants, from various age and income groups, were given options ranging from 0.05 per cent to 5 per cent of their annual income, after they indicated if they were willing to support such a haze mitigation fund.
The average person’s willingness to pay was an estimated 0.97 per cent of his/her annual income.
However, about three in 10 respondents were unwilling to pay even the minimum option of 0.05 per cent of their annual income.
Wijedasa said that one of the solutions proposed for the haze problem is payments for ecosystem services.
“This could take the form of richer nations aiding better land management and restoration by making regular payments.
“Indonesia has estimated that it needs US$2.1 billion to help restore two million hectares of peatland in (the country). They have currently only received US$50 million from Norway and US$17 million from the United States.
"Could this shortfall be filled by Singapore (and other countries in the region)?”
Tan Yi Han, who is not involved in the study and is co-founder of non-governmental organisation People’s Movement to Stop Haze, said that the findings are helpful and “should motivate the Singapore Government to spend on measures to prevent haze, such as a subsidy on certified sustainable palm oil, as well as aid to support peat restoration and protection efforts in Indonesia”.
His organisation’s survey last year found that more than nine in 10 respondents were willing to pay more for certified sustainable products to help mitigate the haze, Tan said.
Most were willing to pay 5 to 10 per cent more.
Consumers game to chip in to avoid any haze include Steven Lim, who is in his 40s and self-employed. How much he is willing to contribute would depend on the amount needed to make an impact.
“Maybe S$10? Multiplied by many individuals, it would be a lot,” Lim said, preferring that the money goes to the Indonesian government.- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/money/article/singaporeans-willing-to-fork-out-1pc-of-income-to-ensure-no-more-haze#sthash.CRhWHQHj.dpuf