Key issues for managing smoke are identified, along with a process developed to reduce the problem during 3 years of project implementation in a critical watershed in North Thailand. The project area is 1007 km2in Nan Province which borders the Lao P.D.R. The government forest fire management programme is being implemented through the Royal Forest Department (RFD), and a participatory community fire management programme facilitated through Community Coordinators is funded through Danish Cooperation for Environment and Development (DANCED) grant assistance. A fire calendar for Nan Province with estimates of the contribution to the smoke problem by different fire lighters shows that major cause of the smoke problem are burning of grassland by hunters and uncontrolled burning of upland fields for agriculture. Moderate causes of smoke were burning of grassland by graziers, urban and roadside fires, and burning of paddy rice straw. Forest fire legislation could not be effectively implemented as it created antagonism between forest officials and communities. However, 67% of the 45 villages of five ethnic groups already had their own regulations and fines against uncontrolled fires. These village regulations in many cases could not be enforced due to fires spreading from neighbouring villages, or being lit at night by hunters. Community contribution in 1998 to fire management in the 45 villages was considerable with almost 94 km of firebreaks and 765 village fireguards, who also helped RFD staff suppress fires. Landsat imagery of 17/3/1998 showed that 20% of the project area was burnt in 1998, mostly by graziers and hunters outside the control of the village social system. This led to conflicts between villages due to fire damage to forest plantations, orchards and other property. The Project Community Coordinators facilitated formation of Village Watershed Networks in 1999 to establish boundaries for village fire control responsibility, and to strengthen village rules on fire management. This process and key data for monitoring community fire management are described. Strengthening of rules and regulations through Village Watershed Networks in 1999 was an important factor in reducing the portion of the project area burnt to less than 2% in 1999 and 2000. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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