This year, the media has taken up the annual issue of forest fires, smoke and soot, death and destruction of flora and fauna, and what are we humans doing–from starting the fire ( by villagers clearing pine leaves, by the “timber mafia”, by careless tourists ) to pouring water over the flames ( the sturdy helicopters of the Indian Air Force), and debating about who should be blamed.
In our hamlet, forest fires happen with heartbreaking regularity. Every year, come April, we see fire garlands on distant hills and smoke filled skies. The fires come right up to our apartments, cast an eerie orange glow on the night sky and leave us helpless and distraught at the thorough burning and killing of all shrubs, trees, grassy plants, bird nests, small animals and so much more.
Once the monsoon rains begin, Nature does its magic and covers the charred slopes with green grass and plants, but I keep thinking how much of dense forest coverage is lost to those ruthless fires of the summer. Charred trees are injured trees, and they take a long time to recover from the burning…an entire season goes past and there can be no growth of that recovering tree.
The forest fires came roaring and smoking up the hill slopes to our apartments…just 4 days ago. This time, the residents teamed up and swiftly cleared a 4 feet wide line of pirul( dry pine leaves) free ground. The pile of pirul was set alight just before the forest fire reached us, and we managed to keep our green patch safe.
It was a good feeling that evening–the cow still had some grass to munch, and the birds could warble and sing on the shady tree branches.
It is time to work towards good times, where forest fires are concerned. Since our circle of actual influence is very small right now, my partner-in-crime and neighbour has joined me to do something practical and feasible.
I am sharing our plans, so that you can use these ideas in your sphere too..
Keeping our fire-lines clean and pirul free by clearing the pirul, collecting piles and storing them for winter insulation in cowsheds, starting a controlled fire and clearing up the inflammable pile.
Planting trees and saplings of local hardy, broad-leaf trees and encouraging a thick undergrowth of thorny shrubs, hisalu and ginghaari, which will protect saplings from hungry goats and cows.
Involving and constantly joining hands with our village neighbours to maintain and widen our green patch. That would mean working beside them to douse the fire, taking their advice on the choice of trees to plant.
It also means trying to keep a pleasant face when their goats eat up the young trees, once again!!