Viet Nam: Report on forest fire preparedness and extinguishment in the dry season of 2001 -- 2002

Report
from UN Development Programme
Published on 19 Jun 2002
Prepared by: UNDP/MARD - DISASTER MANAGEMENT UNIT, VIE/97/002
As of 19 June 2002

(According to Summing-up Report on forest fire prevention and fire fighting activities in the dry season of 2001 -- 2002, issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development)

I. Forest fire situation in the 2001 - 2002 dry season and its causes:

1. General Situation

Vietnam has 11.32 million ha of forest, of which more than 9.5 million ha is natural forest and 1.8 ha is planted forest. In the dry season, the burnable forest areas account for 6 million ha. Forest fires in Vietnam often occur in dry months with hot-dry west wind from October to April.

According to reports sent by Forest Protection Department, from early dry season up to now, there were 623 forest fires, damaged 11819.0 ha of forest, of which, 7,814.6 ha were planted forest and 4000.4 ha were natural forest.

In March and April 2002, there were two big forest fires in Cajeput Forests which belong to U Minh Thuong National Park, Kien Giang Province and U Minh Ha National Park, Ca Mau Province. These forest fires caused severe losses to the country's economy, society, natural resources, and environment.

On 24 March 2002, there was a huge forest fire in the Natural Perennial Cajeput Forest in U Minh Thuong National Park, Kien Giang Province. The forest fire, under controlled in 07 April 2002, caused the loss of 2,500 ha out of 8,053 ha of natural cajeput forest in this National Park.

Another big forest fire in the U Minh III Forestry and Fishery Ground and Tran Van Thoi Forestry and Fishery Ground, Ca Mau Province, which started in 10 April 2002 and was under control in 19 April 2002, caused loss of 3,000 ha out of 39,771 ha of Perennial Regenerated Cajeput Forest and 10-year-old planted forest in the U Minh Ha area.

2. Causes of Forest Fires

- Due to global climatic changes, Vietnam weather conditions are developing complexly with tough and long-lasting sunny and drought, little rainfall, and El Nino phenomenon reoccurrence signal. Water sources in provinces in the Central Highlands, the west and the east of Southern Part, and coastal Central Part are quickly run out. The temperature sometimes climbed to 400C. Many canals and reservoirs are run out of water. Threat of forest fires was hanging over and over. Forest fires in these areas, if any, could spread very quickly and were hard to be extinguished.

- Slash-and-burn cultivation culture of local people.

- Forest protection patrol was loose. Forest owners did not take precaution of forest fires; and in case of emergency forest fires, they did not promptly send reports to the Forest Protection Unit.

- Forest protection and fire preparation measures are not seriously implemented.

- Mobilization of forces and on-the-spot commanding are not appropriately conducted.

- Lacks of cooperation and coordination between local Steering Committees for Forest Protection, leading to the ineffectiveness of forest fire relief and response when forest fires just started.

II. Responsibilities of MARD

1. Directives and guidelines

- At the Headquarter of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), on-duty working for forest fire preparedness and fire fighting was available 24/24 hour a day.

- MARD appointed specialists to check and push up the forest fire prevention and fire fighting in forest fire-prone provinces.

- At the times of forest fires, Minister and Deputy Ministers of MARD were present at the most severe sites to directly check and give guidelines to leaders of the local Forest Protection Units.

- After basic extinguishments of forest fires in U Minh areas, MARD directed the Sub-institute of Forest Research and Planning, Sub-institute of Forestry Science, and Sub-institute of Southern Water Resources Planning to coordinate and cooperate with localities to immediately survey and build projects for forest rehabilitation. Appeals for international and domestic donations and financial and technical assistance for forest rehabilitation were also launched.

2. Existing problems

- MARD has not yet drastically directed and checked the implementation of forest fire preparedness and extinguishment measures in fire-prone localities

- MARD has not yet directed the Forest Protection Department to comprehensively and concretely implement forest fire prevention measures down to local level

- In case of huge forest fires, MARD was still confused in monitoring and mobilizing on-the-spot fire-fighting forces and equipment.

III. Lessons leant and recommendations

1. Lesson learnt

- Surveys on forest fire prevention and fire fighting showed that local authorities and forest owners did not take good care of forest fire prevention and fire fighting activities, reflecting in their misconduct of Government's and MARD's directives and guidelines

- Monitoring and investigation activities taken by authorities of relevant levels and sectors should be regularly and strictly implemented to promptly settle shortcomings in building and implementation of forest fire prevention and fire fighting at grassroots level

- Water resources planning should go in hand with the requirements of the under-water forest's ecology and of forest fire prevention and fire fighting activities

- Central and local authorities should work out solutions for organizing and coordinating forces for timely response, fire-fighting effectiveness, and damage constrain

2. Recommendations

- It is proposed that the Prime Minister should reestablish the Central Committee for Forest Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting (which was once dismissed under Decision No. 79/2000/QD-TTg dated 06 July 2000) or appoint more tasks of response and giving guidelines for forest fire fighting to the National Committee for Search and Rescue;

- It is proposed that the Prime Minister allow MARD to build projects and organize specialized forces for forest fire prevention and fire fighting, focusing on Northern, Central and Southern regions. All these forest fire prevention centers should be under the Forest Protection Department's command. They should be equipped with all necessary and specialized equipment for fire fighting such as means of transportation, communication, etc.