SERVIR-Himalaya Small Grant Programme

A geospatial-scenario planning framework for Assessing risks and impacts of forest fire 

The South Asian Forum for Environment (SAFE) will prepare a geospatial scenario-planning framework for assessing the risks and impacts of forest fire in the eastern Himalayas. SAFE is based in India and one of the eight grantees of SERVIR-Himalaya’s Small Grant Programme.

From environmental, societal, and economic perspectives, forest fires are a catastrophe for the pristine ecology of the eastern terrain of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region. Sixty percent of the forest fire events are reportedly intentional and human induced. The losses incurred every year are disastrous. 

The project will attempt to prepare a scenario analysis framework for conservation and management of fire-prone landscape in identified areas. The broad objective is to increase communities’ ability to respond to wildfire and downscale the impacts of fire through adaptive mitigation. Customizing a cost trade-off quantification tool for evaluating the impact of fire events on natural and social capital will be an integral part of this study. 

The study will cover six districts each of eastern Bhutan and western Arunachal Pradesh, and two districts of Northern Assam in India, where forest fires are a regular phenomenon. Bhutan gives high priority to forest fire prevention programmes as most of the forest fires are human induced.  People burn large patches of dried grass in the forests to stimulate new grass growth for grazing livestock and harvesting lemon grass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) to extract lemon oil. In Arunachal Pradesh, ‘jhum burning’ is considered to be a major factor behind forest fires. This practice is deeply rooted in their culture and an integral part of local custom and folklore. The stray sparks that escape from the burning jhum swiftly turn large areas of forests into ash. 

To promote climate adaptive practice, the project will carry out various activities related to community-based forest management, habitat conservation and risk avoidance. It will map fire events and their socio-ecological aspects; identify the ‘drivers of occurrence’ through participatory vulnerability analysis and change detection studies; and develop community-based participatory plans for climate adaptive change management.

A series of interventions will be carried out over a certain period of time with the aim of promoting adaptive management, participatory planning and stakeholder partnership. The project also seeks to provide a scenario-planning framework for projection analysis, simulation and impact assessment studies to help design a community-based climate adaptation and mitigation strategy.