As many as 160 forest fires were reported across Vietnam in the last six months, destroying about 756ha of forest, according to the Vietnam Fire and Rescue Police Department under the Public Security Ministry.
A forest fire happens in Mong Ga Mountain in Huong Son District, Ha Tinh province on June 30, 2020.
During the same period last year, 156 forest fires were reported nationwide, destroying 930 ha of forest. Notably, the total area of destroyed forest last year increased by 64 per cent compared with the figures of the first half of 2018.
According to the Forestry Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, last year’s peak for forest fires fell between June 26 and July 1, mostly in the central provinces of Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien-Hue, Da Nang, Quang Ngai and Phu Yen.
Now with northern and central provinces faced with a heatwave forecast to last days, the risk of forest fires has increased.
The National Centre for Hydro-Meteorology Forecasting on Thursday reported that most northern provinces on Wednesday experienced temperatures up to 38 degree Celsius, while central provinces from Thanh Hoa to Phu Yen saw the mercury rise to more than 39 degrees Celsius in some areas.
The temperature was reportedly higher on Thursday as provinces from Thanh Hoa to Quang Tri saw 37-40 degrees Celsius and even more than 40 degrees in some areas.
The weather forecasting centre said the heatwave would continue.
Meanwhile, in the central province of Thanh Hoa, on Thursday, a forest fire lasted more than seven hours in two communes – Hai Nhan and Ninh Hai – in Tinh Gia District.
The fire started at noon and spread to an area of about 50 ha.
Earlier, on June 29, a fire raged for six hours in the central province of Nghe An. It began at about 8pm in a pine forest in Dien Chau District’s Dien An Commune. Hot weather and strong winds caused the fire to spread over dozens of hectares of pine forest. More than 200 households who live near the fire were evacuated.
On the same evening, another forest fire happened in An Phu Commune, Vu Quang District in the neighbouring province of Ha Tinh. The fire then spread to two communes – Son Long and Son Tra – in Huong Son District. It took nearly two days to control the fire.
Dozens of hectares of pine and acacia forest on Son Thanh Commune, Yen Thanh District, Nghe An Province were destroyed by fire.
Prolonged heat with temperature up to 43 degrees Celsius in central coastal areas in the last 12 days of June was blamed as the main cause of forest fires.
High temperatures and humidity of less than 30 per cent made forests more vulnerable to fire and once the fires happened, it was hard to extinguish them.
Poor quality of forests has been mentioned as a factor that increases the risk of forest fires in central provinces, Vietnam News Agency reported early this week.
In central Vietnam, primary forests account for only 7 per cent of total forests and the remaining forests are secondary forests.
Of the secondary forests, impoverished ones account for about 70 per cent.
The secondary forests are said to be more sensitive to fire than primary ones.
Pine forest, Melaleuca forests, bamboo forests, eucalyptus forest, dipterocarp forest are easily flammable. These kinds of trees are very common in the central region with a total area of nearly 6 million hectares.
Human activities, especially burning in forest areas, also cause forest fires.
According to Nghe An Province’s Forest Protection Division, four out of nine forest fires in the province since the beginning of this year were related to human activities.
Modest funding, lack of equipment and staff are also problems in forest fire prevention and control.
Forest environment services
Since 2011, Vietnam has been implementing a national payment for forest environmental services (PFES) scheme that has mobilised thousands of households to protect and manage more than 5 million hectares of forest land.
More than $230 million has been disbursed to participating households in 40 provinces and the socioeconomic and conservation benefits have been well-regarded.
PFES schemes are based on environmental service ‘users’ rewarding or compensating ‘providers’ of those environmental services.
The northern mountainous province of Son La has run PFES since 2009.
Out of 637,018ha of forest in the province, 537,000ha has been protected and developed with funding from the PFES policy, thus, the quality of forest and forest biodiversity has improved regularly.
In the northern mountainous province of Lai Chau, PFES also helps reduce forest fires.
Task forces were established at every commune in the province, responsible for patrolling and protecting certain forest areas as well as detecting potential risks/violations. The task forces are paid with the funding from PFES.
Vang Thi Thanh, chairwoman of Num Nua Commune People’s Committee in Muong Te District, said local authorities strengthened communicating on forest fire prevention and control to local residents, especially during the dry season.
More than 4,000ha of forest in the commune was protected by its task forces.
According to Muong Te District People’s Committee, it set up 126 task forces specialising in forest fire prevention and control. For the last few years, no forest fires have hit the district. VNS
Thousands of people have been sent to deal with huge forest fires in two central provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh on June 29.
Nguyen Quoc Tri, director general of the Vietnam Administration of Forestry, talks about the dangers of forest fires during the dry season.
All forests south of the Hau River in the Mekong Delta have been facing the threat of fire since the middle of this month, and any fire would spread very quickly because of the heat and low humidity, local authorities have warned.