SOPs prepared for prevention of forest fires: Sherry Rehman

Published June 9, 2022
Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman speaks at a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman speaks at a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

ISLAMABAD: Keeping in view the recent fire incidents across the country, standard operating procedures (SOPs) for prevention and control of forest fires have been prepared, Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a press conference, Ms Rehman said: “The fires in District Bari Kot are still raging while seven other sites of forest fires have been controlled by the provincial teams on the ground.”

Her press conference at Press Information Department (PID) coincided with the World Ocean Day.

The provincial authorities were on alert in high-risk zones, she said, adding that there have been several incidents of forest fires reported and dealt with in the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP) during the last three days.

Sherry says provincial authorities on alert in high-risk zones

“The control room established by the Ministry of Climate Change (MoCC) had been fully active and had mobilised the staff for ground and aerial response to the incidents. At least three of these have been reported only on Wednesday in the Margallas,” she said.

Focusing on timely response to forest fires, she said: “The lengthy heatwave across the country has aggravated forest fires in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Margalla Hills in Islamabad. The SOPs include action related to risk reduction, prevention and immediate response on low and high intensity forest fire outbreaks for the federal and provincial authorities.”

She said last year, the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) and Capital Development Authority (CDA) fought fires that damaged an area of 189 acres.

“This year, despite more fires, our combined vigilance has controlled the damage to 45.4 acres in total in the Margalla Hills National Park (MHNP),” she added.

The task force had recommended immediate elevation of all forest fires to disaster level, which now triggers responses from National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), among many other preventive protocols and response actions.

Furthermore, the minister said: “Installment of watch towers with watchers during the fire season, clearings of fire lines for flammable materials have reduced the risk of forest fires. Moreover, creating fire ditches, involvement of local communities and establishment of control rooms in all forest fire zones in all provinces with communication networks, equipment and staff are important measures.”

“Many of the important climate change issues were raised at the international platforms at Davos and Stockholm+50. These SOPs include alerting all relevant provincial and federal authorities depending on the severity of the fires, deployment of fire-fighting and rescue staff, to carry out announcements in mosques and schools to alert nearby populations and carry out rescue operations during severe situations to prevent harm to local communities,” Ms Rehman said.

The minister later visited firefighters at Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) fire control and appreciated their efforts.

“Our natural biodiversity is affected but thankfully no human life was lost. We had set up control rooms and monitoring systems for early monitoring of such incidents,” she said, adding that “our firefighters have been vigilant in their efforts to curb the ongoing fires with little to no delay and should be duly appreciated”.

Earlier, Senator Rehman chaired the third meeting of the Task Force on Climate Change, attended by Minister for Water Resources Khursheed Shah, provincial chief secretaries and other stakeholders.

“Although our remit is strictly federal, we cannot ignore forest fires raging across the country due to the heatwave and dry weather that sparks fires. This is why a Climate Change Task force was set up at the ministry, in response to the first fires that started in May this year, to coordinate climate-related actions as quickly as possible. All chief secretaries of the provinces are in this task force which first met at the Prime Minister’s House and then has been meeting regularly at the MoCC along with NDMA and related departments,” she said.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2022

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