ISLAMABAD    -   A recent report has painted a bleak picture of the life and tree losses by forest fires in KP and Balochistan with 11,999 acres of forests burning into ashes this hot and dry season.

According to Ministry of Climate Change report, forest fires engulfed 42 sites across the country from April to July this year. An unprecedented outbreak of crown fires in KP and Balochistan occurred in May 2022. Ground and bushfires commonly occur in forest areas whereas crown fires are rarely encountered. In Punjab 14 sites affected 973 acres whereas seven sites of KP affected 663 acres. In Koh-e-Suleman region of Balochistan 7,562 acres containing 11 different sites burnt hundreds of thousands of pine forests (chilghoza trees). According to various estimates, almost 40 percent of the pine forests were destroyed by recent fires in Balochistan.

The fires also took lives of three people. Pakistan only covers 4.8 percent of its land with forests. Three sites that contain 2,667 acres and 134 acres of Gilgit Baltistan in seven different sites were damaged due to the fires. The report suggests forest fires need recognition amongst categories of disasters and be integrated into national, sub-national and local disaster management plans. The report depicts different components of SOPs preventive measures, immediate response measures on the outbreak of fires, post-fire outbreak measures and SOPs/actionable plans to be implemented by the local administration. The report further describes components of SOPs: Identification and zoning of high-risk areas, permanent deployment of staff during fire seasons, creation of fire lines in forest areas, and clearance of fire lines from flammable materials from forests. The report further suggests involvement of local communities, creating water ponds, awareness campaigns and frequent field visits by staff. It also suggested immediate response measures during a fire outbreak, preparing for counterfire, and mobilising the local community. Post-fire measures also explained in the report include coordination with 1122 fire fighting units, alert NDMA, PDMA including Aviation Division. These post-fire measures also highlight need for arrangement of equipment to remove flammable materials, plan for evacuation of inhabitants and provision of particularly aircraft to drop water and fire retardants. Local administration needs to follow an action plan and in case of fire imposition of an emergency and section 144, establishing communication networks purchase and stocking fire retardants and chemicals, types of equipment and machinery. The report suggested that capacity of forests department staff should be improved.