The fire raging in the Sherani region of Balochistan started five days ago. Thankfully, the armed forces, the provincial government and the federal government are all working together to counter it. But the changing climate, increasing water shortages and unpredictable droughts entail a rethink in our approach to forest fires and how to stop them.
For starters, the biggest change needed is that of mindset; fire safety and control is not seen as a major issue in Pakistan, and this is something that must change. Little funding and training is provided against fire prevention and safety mechanisms, and this shows whenever an incident—natural or manmade—of this magnitude takes place. Thankfully, our armed forces step up when all else seems futile, but role should not always have to fall to them.
In the case of forest fires, there must be a system to both warn in advance of potential dry brush fires or immediately after once one has broken out. Fire rangers and forest officers should be trained for this role; those that live in surrounding areas and are at hand to respond before the fire starts raging beyond control.
Beyond this, fire safety teams must also be at hand in vulnerable areas, to be able to respond immediately. The government must realise that fire brigades are not only meant to exist in cities, they have a crucial role to play in areas such as woodlands and forests, where the risk of a fire is high, and the potential damage to the ecosystem as a result of any incident can be catastrophic.
A lot of investment and training is needed for this endeavour, a short-term fix will certainly not achieve anything. We are likely to see these fires prop up regularly going forward, with rising temperatures and erratic weather patterns. It is time to get ahead of the problem.