National Green Tribunal: While expressing concern about the large scale devastation being caused due to forest fires across the States of Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh, an application was filed before the Tribunal under Sections 14 & 15 of the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010.
The application was filed mainly in regard to know what measures were being taken by the Central Government and direct the authorities responsible to take measures for prevention of damage being caused due to forest fires.
Applicant has stated that urgent steps are to be taken for further prevention of the flora and fauna devastation. The Tribunal on hearing the applicant issued notices to the respondents on 04.05.2016, directing them to reply on a few questions through proper reports.
Complying with the order dated 04.05.2016, respondents submitted their replies. Forest Department stated that they have a comprehensive fire management plans in place which is implemented in true letter and spirit. There are several activities like mapping of areas that are vulnerable in fire prevention and control setting up a cell at state and district level both. Schemes like Van Panchayat, Women’s Nursery, Hamara Ped, Hamara Dhan Yojana, Hamara School Hamara Vrikshyojana, etc. have been introduced to bridge the gulf of mistrust.
Central Government has also been a mute spectator in this ecological disaster of events. Despite this, the fact that sub- section (1) of Section 3 of the EP Act, 1986 confers powers on the Central Government to take all measures as it deems necessary for the purpose of protecting and improving the quality of the environment and preventing, controlling and abating environmental pollution.
It has also been stated by NGT that if better implementation of the fire management plan and crisis management plan were executed it could have prevented the large scale forest fires. Considering the facts and circumstances, the following directions were laid down:
· National policy/ Guidelines for forest fire prevention and control should be formulated in consultation with MoEF & CC and the first set of policies should be issued within 3 months from the passing of this judgement.
· Chief Secretary of the State along with State Departments concerned review the Forest Fire/ Crisis Management Plan and shall ensure that adequate resources and manpower are placed to the department concerned.
· All the required resources like manpower, financial, transport and firefighting equipments should be provided at the beginning of the financial year for an effective Forest Fire Management Plan.
· Department should also carry out forest fire vulnerability mapping of the entire forest area and identify the hotspots of fire for setting up of the prevention and control system.
· Labour for fire prevention activities should be sourced preferably from villages nearby the forests for an effective participation. They should also be provided with special incentives.
· Village level Panchayati institutions should be actively involved for Forest Fire Management Plan.
· Forest Fire Alert System should be strengthened in collaboration with National Remote Sensing Agency (NSRA) and the Forest Survey of India.
· Senior officer at the level of Chief Conservator of Forests should be designated to coordinate with other government agencies for accumulation of required resources.
· Automated surveillance or watch towers/ observation posts should be set up at strategic locations for timely interventions of fire incidences.
· Mock drills need to be taken up for effective disaster risk reduction and fire control.
· Teams of officials at the State district and Range level should be placed so that conduct of mock drills and other appropriate measures could be lined up for the prevention of forest fire hazards. [Rajiv Dutta v. Union of India; Original Application No. 216 of 2016; decided on 03.08.2017]