20 students were caught in forest fires at Kurangani, Theni district. None of them could be saved due to our negligence. Let us review its root causes and possible ways to counter such future tragedy. All over the world, forest fires are detected by satellites and the information is conveyed to forest department of the country. It’s a bitter truth that satellites can’t detect forest fire for smaller size than 7 acres. A few years ago, approximately 5 hours was the time lapse between time of spotting fire and message reaching upto District Forest Officer (DFO). Luckily, this has been reduced to about two hours recently. The frequency of both the satellites orbiting the earth has also been increased from twice daily to once in three hours. It could have been better, if DFO received the message from his guards in watchtowers and on patrol. A good stock of fire retardant chemicals and pump water to fight the blaze must be available with forest department. These are expensive methods, but it make sense while protecting a human community. But, this is usually not practised in India.

The main reasons for forest fire are presence of abundant biomass (dried leaves and wooden branches) on the ground. Undeterred undergrowth also contributes in building up biomass. Lack of variety of trees in forest aggravates the situation further. Same type of trees shed their dried leaves simultaneously and thereby creating thick layers of dried biomass on ground. The situation is more alarming during summer when atmospheric temperature remains very high. This biomass becomes the best invitation for fire hazard. In various developed countries, this biomass is collected and burnt in a controlled manner.

Timely collection of this dried biomass will reduce possibility of fire. We can control this by plantation of different varieties of trees. Such biomass can be easily used to make vermin-compost which can contribute in organic farming and reduce our dependence on chemical fertilisers. In the same way, we can utilize the biomass for making biomass briquettes which can be used for energy generation. A number of briquetting machine manufacturers are available in India. This approach will be a milestone in fulfilling energy requirements of energy hungry countries. This will also provide employment to our youths. Biomass briquettes have been successfully tested all over the world for efficient energy generation while controlling pollution. This will be a win-win situation. Pine trees in hilly areas are highly inflammable. Dried pine needles keep on falling on ground and make fire hazard. These needles can be used for energy generation. So far, efforts from Govt. have been too little to make a remarkable impact on environment protection. Had this not been true, New Delhi would not have faced such alarming levels of pollution, especially during winter.

If we can come together to fight war, can’t all countries come together to douse these forest fires. We have made latest RADARs and other equipment to detect any fighter aircraft of enemy country. In case of any violation on borders by enemy country, the host country can get its fighters flying in the air for retaliation within 5 to 10 minutes. This capability is with almost all the countries. Every country supports this retaliation, because this is an attack on its sovereignty. Even developing countries consider this as their top priority. Our planet has witnessed World Wars, in which all the countries made powerful groups to fight and destroy each other. Unfortunately, massive destruction of wealth and human lives was everywhere. But this was the result of our own choice. We (the highly civilized and educated Homo Sapiens) spend billions of dollars in research for development of latest armament and weapons, but we never come together to douse forest fires globally. If forest fire is in our country, resources only of our country are utilized to counter fires. Many a times, these efforts are too little and too late in relation to volume of forest fire. Unluckily, the fire is not controlled in time and we lose thousands of trees from our earth.

For a common man, a problem is just a problem. But if we feel proud to be known as civilized and educated person, we must be capable to turn this problem into opportunity. As a corporate firm, we can initiate and encourage such steps to utilize biomass under CSR(Corporate Social Responsibilities) activities. They can also promote plantation of multi variety in forest areas. Global campaign to bring all countries together to fight this problem of forest fire has become need of the hour. Because, oxygen and pollution do not recognize geographical or political boundaries. Green and clean planet is must for survival of mankind. As an ordinary human being, we can modify our buying behavior. We must use bio friendly products instead of plastic made and we must pledge to plant at least one tree in a year. Let us all come together in this campaign to bring all countries together to combat forest fires in more professional manners. By doing so, poor countries will also be capable to preserve their forest. JUST REMEMBER, OXYGEN AND POLLUTION DO NOT RECOGNIZE GEOGRAPHICAL OR POLITICAL BOUNDARIES.

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