Be alert for forest fires, ministry warns
The government has called for central and provincial agriculture and forestry officials to be alert in preventing and controlling forest fires, which are a perennial problem.
The request supports an order issued recently by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on the prevention and control of forest fires.
During the course of 2016, forest fires damaged 6,458 hectares of land throughout the country, mostly in Luang Namtha, Xayaboury, Huaphan and Saravan provinces, according to the ministry.
The main causes of forest fires are slash-and-burn cultivation in the absence of firebreaks, and hunting animals.
It is estimated that 90 percent of fires originate from slash-and-burn cultivation by upland farmers.
The order was part of efforts by the ministry to grow more saplings, plant more trees and restore forest cover to 37,000 hectares.
The government is rolling out a strategy to restore forest cover to 70 percent of the country's terrain by 2020.
In permanently cultivated areas, fires are used to burn crop residues and prepare the land for the upcoming growing season. In urban and residential areas, people burn leaves, trash and brush, the ministry said.
In mountainous areas, fires may indicate the permanent conversion of forest to agricultural land, or they may be associated with shifting cultivation, also known as swidden farming.
In this system, patches of forest are cyclically felled, burned, cultivated, and then fallowed for a time. Secondary forest or other vegetation reclaims the clearing during the fallow period.
The fires in this region have been part of land management practices for hundreds, possibly thousands of years, and are not necessarily immediately hazardous.
But they nevertheless have a big influence on air quality and human health, greenhouse gas emissions and the Earth's carbon cycle, and biodiversity, the ministry noted.
The government lacks forest fire control equipment and it is particularly difficult to find suitable methods to control fires in mountainous and inaccessible areas.
To prevent and control forest fires, sustainable land use practices and job opportunities need to be provided for shifting cultivators and they must be encouraged to understand how to prevent, detect and control fires.
The government has warned officials to prepare working groups and set up an organisation to coordinate regional fire control organisations and other government agencies, as well as prepare materials and guidelines for forest fire prevention and suppression.
The climate of Southeast Asia is dominated by the Asian monsoon. From late spring through summer, it is rainy and hot; from autumn through winter, it is cooler and dry.
In the late dry season, fires-both intentional and accidental-become widespread as people turn to fire to clear and manage agricultural and residential landscapes. In the first months of the year, it is not uncommon for satellites to capture images of hundreds of active fires burning across the hills and valleys of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.
By Times Reporters
(Latest Update January 06, 2017)