Given the success of the “Fire Free Pench Program” during the 2022 fire season, Pench Maharashtra is organizing it again this year. The program began on February 15, 2023.
During the 2022 program, a competition was held among villages for their overall efforts in forest fire prevention. It received an overwhelming response, with 37 villages out of the total 39 villages present in the PTR’s buffer area participating in this program. This program contributed to a 67% reduction in total forest area burned, which was 659 ha in 2021 and fell to 218 ha in 2022.
Furthermore, the number of fire incidences decreased by 52% from 63 in 2021 to 30 in 2022, with only three fires occurring adjacent to farm and village areas. Sarapanch and EDC President of Kolitmara, Surera, and Ghat pendhri villages in Parshioni Taluka received first, second, and third place in this program, respectively. This program has aided in the establishment of a support base in villages for forest protection and will aid in the prevention of future forest fires.
As a prerequisite for participation in this programme, the villagers’ willingness to participate through their tharav is required. Voluntary patrolling squads will be formed in all villages to raise public awareness, patrol sensitive forest areas, and assist the forest department in the event of a fire.
Performance of the villages will be assessed based upon 10 criteria such as tharav of the villages, number of meetings taking place at village level for execution and coordination, size of the voluntary squads, number of patrolling carried out by squad, number of fire incidences, use of net for the mahua collection, efforts in arresting spread of fire from farms, grazing incidence in forest etc and other innovative steps.
A committee comprised of ACF Atul Deokar, ACF Kiran Patil, Mandar Pingale from the Satpuda Foundation, and Ajinkya Bhatkar, Wildlife Warden, has been formed to assess the overall performance of the villages.