May 31st, 2007 09:20 EST
UN agency urges measures to prevent forest fires
A United Nations agency today urged countries to invest more in fire preparedness and prevention.
“Countries need to enhance collaboration, share their knowledge and increasingly target people, who are the main cause of fires, through awareness-raising and education,” said Peter Holmgren, FAO’s Chief of the Forest Resources Development Service, in a news release.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) presented a global strategy to enhance international cooperation in fire management to a meeting earlier this month in Spain of some 1,500 fire experts and planners from more than 80 countries.
The strategy includes a global assessment of fire management detailing incidence and impacts in all regions, a review of international cooperation, and the voluntary guidelines in fire management.
In the year 2000 alone, an estimated 350 million hectares of forests and woodlands were destroyed by fire, with sub-Saharan Africa and Australasia accounting for 80 per cent of the total area burned, according to FAO.
The agency acknowledged that fire is an important and widely used tool in agriculture and in maintaining ecosystems, but warned that wildfires, which are frequently the result of negligence or arson, destroy millions of hectares of forests and woodlands, resulting in loss of human and animal life and immense economic damage.