Forest and Grassland Fire Management Issues Highlighted with Three Days of Events
The joint efforts of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Republic of Armenia and UNDP towards prevention of forest fires and early response, as well as OSCE and Global Fire Monitoring Centre in the scope of the Environment and Security Initiative brought together nearly 300 participants in the forest and grassland fire management field exercise and conference held in Kapan and Yerevan between the 12th and 14th of September, 2011.
The increasing occurrence of grassland and forest fires throughout the last decade in Armenia has highlighted the threat from wildfire for the vulnerable forest ecosystems and biodiversity. 96% of the incidents are caused by negligence and burning of agricultural waste and pasturelands. The timeliness of the issue brought participants from all relevant organisations including Ministries of Emergency Situations, Agriculture, Nature Protection, Defence and Territorial Administration, the Marz Administrations and the civil society to the three days of fire management events.
The national training on wildfire management and risk reduction and the command-staff field exercise held in Kapan between the 12th and 13th of September revealed the current strengths as well as the needs of coordination and fire management capacities. The drill with participation of representatives of rescue service, military forces, police, forest enterprises and protected areas, Syunik Marz Administration, regional services and Armenian Red Cross also showed the forest fire early response equipment provided by the UNDP-GEF to the foresters of Syunik and Kapan Forest Enterprises and the Arevik National Park in action proving their efficiency and their usefulness to the beneficiaries. Furthermore, the replication value of the UNDP activity was highlighted through the decision of the Armenian Rescue Service to purchase 100 backpack pumps for fire fighting units. At the peak of the fire season, the donation of the equipment has come at a time of great need.
The Director of Rescue Service Major-general S. Azaryan emphasized in the conference “Forecast, Prevention and Suppression of Forest and Grassland Fires” held on the 14th of September in Yerevan that close cooperation between all stakeholders on both national and regional levels is required and relevant changes in law enforcement as well as a clear command chain are needed to prevent and reduce the damage of forest fires. Following the conference, the first national roundtable led by international forest fire experts resulted accordingly in the decision to form a permanent national Task Force on forest and grassland fire management by the 1st of October, 2011 to continue the developments started now.
The presented issues, openings and scientific advancements will be collected into the conference proceedings that will be published in both Armenian and English in the coming months. The participants were also provided with other material such as the poster on hazards associated with agricultural waste and grassland burning prepared and distributed to communities by the UNDP. The Ministry of Defence requested to be provided with the posters for distribution in order to further prevent forest fires in border areas. The national events on forest and grassland fire management coincided with the warning issued by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests on the increasing threat of wildfires due to the lack of fire management and impacts of climate change. The related FAO press release on a call for nations to improve landscape management especially on lands bordering forests to prevent forest fires was also distributed at the conference.
The event is also elucidated on the website of OSCE Yerevan office.
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