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2nd April 2022 (7 Topics)

UN takes note of global indigenous fire practices to control wildfires



The United Nations has taken note of burning practices and techniques of indigenous peoples around the world as a method to control wildfire incidents in a recent report on increasing incidences of fires globally.


About the report:

  • Report title:“Spreading like wildfire: The rising threat of extraordinary landscape fires”
  • Released by: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Key Findings:

  • Indigenous and traditional knowledge of land management in many regions — particularly the use of fire to manage fuel, including for wildfire mitigation— can be an effective way of reducing hazard.
  • It can also ensure that biodiversity and cultural (including understanding traditional gender roles that can govern burning activities) and ecological values are respected, as well as create livelihood opportunities.

Increasing case of forest fire

  • Forest fire is a major cause of injury and loss to forests, with the population increase, the frequency and subsequent damage due to forest fire is increasing day by day.
  • Major forest fires recently witnessed were- Australia Bush Fire, Uttarakhand forest fire, Russian wildfires etc.

Types of Forest Fire

  • Surface fires: Surface fire is the most common forest fires that burn undergrowth and dead material along the floor of the forest.
  • Underground fires: The fires of low intensity, consuming the organic matter beneath and the surface litter of forest floor are sub-grouped as underground fire.
  • Ground fires: There is no clear distinction between underground and ground fires. The smoldering underground fire sometime changes into ground fire.
  • Crown fires: Crown fire is the most unpredictable fires that burn the top of trees and spread rapidly by wind.

Examples of how indigenous communities globally used burning to control wildfires:

  • Australian Aborigines’ use of fire to create mosaic landscapes for hunting and gathering purposes also broke up the continuity of fuels and so inhibited the extensive spread of wildfires.
  • Canadian First Nations used fire as a way of managing their territory.
  • Indigenous peoples from the Venezuelan, Brazilian and Guyanese Amazon as well as the Brazilian Cerrado have used fire for subsistence activities and the control of savanna plant fuel levels to prevent the spread of wildfires into adjacent forests.
  • Brazil’s Xavante Amerindians, for instance, are trained in total fire suppression.
  • The Pemón in south-east Venezuela use patch mosaic burning to protect and sustain forests in Canaima National Park, which helps reduce the impacts of wildfires in the region.
  • In South America, indigenous knowledge is combined with science to protect indigenous territories from wildfire incidents.
    • This is done through the indigenous cultural burning for wildfire prevention, mitigation, and response Network or PARUPA.


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