Notes from the Other Side of a Forest Fire
by Tarsh Thekaekara, Abi Tamim Vanak, Ankila J Hiremath, Nitin D Rai, Jayashree Ratnam, Raman Sukumar in Economic & Political Weekly, June 24, 2017
Source: Courtesy Tarsh Thekaekara by email (18 July 2017) | To read the full text, click the download link Notes from the other side of a forest fire EPW 2017 >>
If you do not burn the forest, it will burn.
— A Kattunayakan Adivasi saying
Although widely used as a tool in forest management across the world, causing fires is illegal in Indian forests. This article points out that the present understanding of fire as essentially disruptive has its antecedents in a colonial perspective that came from seeing the forest primarily as a source of timber. However, the practices of indigenous communities as well as the insights of ecological studies point to the importance of using fire in controlled ways to manage dry and deciduous forest ecosystems. […]
Local people used fire as an essential part of land management, where it “converted organic residues into fertilizer, kept woodlands and prairies in grass, assisted hunting, cleansed soil of pathogens, and supported foraging for flowers, bees, tubers, and herbs” (Pyne 1994: 7). India’s mosaic was intricately ordered by fire, where “fresh browse appeared at the proper place at the proper time; deer migrated to those sites; tiger followed the deer” […]
Despite scepticism about the feasibility of completely suppressing fires in India’s forests, most colonial officers zealously pursued a stringent fire suppression policy, in part because of the broader colonial agenda—“to control fire was to control native populations” (Pyne 1994: 12). […]
Indigenous Burning Regimes
“If you do not burn the forest, it will burn” is an often-repeated Kattunayakan saying about forest fires. Adivasis have historically used fires to manage their forests, and these practices—for example, by the Soligas in the Bilgiri Rangaswamy Temple Wildlife Sanctuary (BRT) in Karnataka—have been reasonably well-studied and documented.
We do not of course suggest that uncontrolled, devastating wildfires should be left unchecked. […] We argue that the blanket ban on fires in all forest ecosystems is highly misplaced [and] that India is also able to learn from and contribute to this growing body of work.
[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]
- For more information, type “forest dwellers India”, “Indian environmental policy tribes”, “tribal eco system”, “Kattunayakan tribal community”, “Soliga tribal economy”, “Nilgiri forest conservation“, “Forest Department”, “Nilgiri tribal customs” or similar search terms into the search window here: Google custom search – Indian press coverage of tribal culture and education >>
- Do the same on Custom search engine: Govt. of India, NGOs and international organisations >>
- Use the WorldCat.org search field seen here for authors or titles dealing with the above mentioned topics:
- Accord | Articles by Mari Marcel Thekaekara (writer and Co-Founder of ACCORD-Nilgiris)
- Ashwini community health programme
- Childhood | Childrens rights: UNICEF India
- Community facilities
- eJournals, eBooks & reports | eLearning
- Education and literacy | Right to education
- Forest Rights Act (FRA) | Legal rights over forest land
- Gudalur | Communities: Paniya | Kattunayaka | Mullukurumba | Bettakurumba
- Health and nutrition | Recommendations by the Expert Committee
- Shola Trust | Nilgiri biosphere
- Success stories
- Tribal elders
- Viswa Bharati Vidyodaya Trust
- Western Ghats – tribal heritage & ecology
- What is the Forest Rights Act about?
Who is a forest dweller under this law, and who gets rights?
- “Who are Scheduled Tribes?”: Clarifications by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes – Government of India