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News: Multiple Forest fires result of arsonists: says forest conservation and preservation director

Forest Fire, Unknown Location, Oromia Regional State. Picture: Social Media

ETENESH ABERA @ETENESHAB

Addis Abeba, March 31, 2021 – Reports of fire breaking out in different parts of the country.has been coming out since last month The fire incidents targeted forests that covers according to the United Nations’ (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 15.7 percent of the country. Oromia and Amhara regional states are the most affected by these breakouts according to Kabetamu Girma, Director of the Ethiopian Environment, Forest and Climate change Commission, Forest Conservation and Preservation directorate. 

The director who spoke to Addis Standard about the conditions of areas affected by fire outbreaks said, “For the last five days there have been fire outbreaks in different locations around the country. Multiple locations Jimma Zone, Asebot Mountains, Jibat, Chilimo, Chilalo Galema Mountains, Mount Zuquallas, Yerer Mountain Forests in the Oromia Regional state and Wof Washa Forest in the Amhara Regional State are some of the forests that were affected by fire.” He added, “While outbreaks are being managed at all mentioned locations, the fire in Jimma Zone in an area known locally as Warere is still active.” 

Speaking on the reasons behind these outbreaks, the director said, “Reasons differ depending on location but I believe whatever the reasons are, these are not man made. Negligence in management could be the main factor behind all this destruction. The destruction of natural resources is a dangerous practice. Practices like starting fire to make space for agricultural land or to harvest honey are the main factors behind forest fire outbreaks in the country. We have to understand that not a single forest fire outbreak registered natural causes like climate change or other environmental phenomena that cause fire in the country.” When asked about how much of the forest mass has been damaged due to fire outbreaks the director said, “This year’s investigation is not yet done but we do have last year’s estimation. It was difficult to know the exact forest mass due to the difficult nature of the landscape but will have a summary ready by the end of this year.” 

This is not the first time a series of fire outbreaks hit the country’s natural forests. Two yearsago, a fire breakout the Simien Mountains National Park started initially on March 26, 2019 and went about on and off into mid April consumed 753 ha of land. Earlier in January of that year, a fire breakout in the Bale Mountains National Park. The fire lasted more than 20 days and damaged 2,600 ha of land. The director told Addis Standard that he believes this year’s outbreak might be worse than last year’s, “I believe that this year’s outbreaks are worse in comparison to last year’s. The long dry season is making the situation worse and if the situation continues as it is, we have to strengthen our prevention capacity.”

The director spoke to Addis Standard about efforts made by the Ethiopian Environment Forest and Climate change Commission and explained that efforts were underway to assess damages and assist in fire control. He said, “We have already sent professionals to the aforementioned locations to conduct investigation into the reasons behind the outbreaks and to mobilize nearby communities to participate in fire control efforts. These professionals are expected to facilitate and encourage the community and stakeholders to participate in fire control efforts. At the same time provide information to the commission on the situation.” The director further explained that only creating awareness within the community will be “the most effective solution” to prevent future outbreaks. AS

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