Fire-lighting: local people know better
Authorities in the northern province of Chiang Mai have placed a total ban on the lighting of fires in forest and woodland areas. These fires are traditionally lit by local people with the purpose of burning off aggregated fuel, such as dry grass and dead-leaf litter, which could lead to bigger and more disastrous bush fires if left unchecked, and also to clear and fertilise patches of land for agricultural use.
I come from Australia, a land famous, or infamous, for its bushfires, which every year ravage thousands of square kilometres of bushland, all too often killing people and sometimes razing entire towns. In Australia, rural bushfire brigades, largely comprised of volunteers, regularly conduct controlled burn-offs to reduce the potential for the larger fires that turn deadly when they get beyond control.
But this is nothing new. Australia's original inhabitants, the Aboriginies, have been using burn-offs or small "cool fires" for some 50,000 years. They used these fires both for hunting and as a means of controlling their environment, an environment for which they had a natural affinity. Early European settlers recorded that Aboriginies were familiar with fire and used it to raze dry grass and other collected leaf and litter fuel that would cause bigger and more destructive fires when the hot seasons came, as inevitabily they did, year after year.
Fire has always been an annual feature of the Australian bushland, with even the plants and animals adapted to natural infernos. In fact, the seeds of some species of plant cannot germinate unless the hard pod casing has been scorched by a bushfire. Fire in Australia is as natural as the wind, the rain and, unfortunately, the all-too-often droughts.
The long-time inhabitants of Chiang Mai and the Australian Aboriginies might have a thing or two to teach bureacrats sitting in their air-conditioned offices.