Bush firefighting equipment for Praslin | 30 November 2019
Praslin, the second largest island of the Seychelles archipelago, is renowned as the island which has been most ravaged by bush fires over the years. This is evident from the various scars of red soil which still shows to date.
In order to ensure a better future for the island’s rich ecosystem it is necessary that such forest fires are prevented and a contingency plan established to remediate the situation, if ever another such calamity is to happen. It is the ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA) to climate change in the Seychelles project which is supporting the implementation of a forest fire contingency plan.
Ecosystem Based Adaptation involves the management and rehabilitation of ecosystems through selected measures intended to increase the resilience to climate change. This includes forest and wetland rehabilitation to increase rainfall infiltration and reduce forest fire risks within the catchment areas. The project is jointly implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change in partnership with the United Nations Development Programmes (UNDP), funded by the Adaptation Fund.
It proposes to enhance the coordination and efficiency in fighting forest fires through a participatory approach of stakeholders, including the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA), Seychelles Fire and Rescue Services Agency (SFRSA), Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), local non-governmental organisation Terrestrial Restoration Action Society of Seychelles (Trass), Praslin Watershed Committee (WSC) and the districts of Grand Anse and Baie Ste Anne.
Through the French embassy, the project sought the help of Reunion Island which is well experienced in forest fire management. This request was well received and EBA was able to cooperate with the Regional French Civil Defence Forces of Reunion Island to recruit two experts in forest fire management.
In February this year, the two experts visited Praslin and conducted an audit and needs assessment inventory as well as workshops with various stakeholders on the island. They also conducted a terrain and field analysis of affected sites, a survey of the Vallée de Mai and other reserves on Praslin.
From the audit, certain recommendations were made and among them the need for certain well-adapted equipment which will allow both the SFRSA and SNPA to fight forest fires in an efficient and timely manner.
These equipment include back packs to carry important tools and a water pump which can easily be fixed to the SFRSA trucks to reach difficult terrains.
The equipment were officially handed over by EBA to the SFRSA on Praslin in a small ceremony at the SFRSA base itself. French Ambassador Dominique Mas was the guest of honour at the ceremony, representing the cooperation between the EBA project and ‘Service Départemental d’Incendie et de Secours’ (SDIS) of Reunion Island.
In his address to the invitees, Ambassador Mas expressed France’s appreciation of the opportunity to help with this project which comes as a symbol of the strong diplomatic relations between the two countries, sharing common ideas on climate change and protecting the environment.
“Seychelles is very sensitive to climate change and rest assured that France is behind Seychelles to help protect the environment and guarantee a better future for our children. The firefighters from Reunion were honoured and motivated to pass on their expertise to the local agencies and we hope to continue this good relation in the future,” Ambassador Mas shared as he described the project as “a very special one” to him personally, in view that his son is a volunteer firefighter in France.
On his part, Hydro-geologist of EBA, Johan Mendez, thanked the French government for their support on the project as well as all agencies involved for their valuable contribution.
“This project is well adapted to help against climate change in our country of very high biodiversity. It is thus important that fire fighters work with SNPA, SIF, Trass and other local NGOs for a collaborative effort,” said Mr Mendez.
SFRSA welcomed the donation which will complement forest firefighting equipment which they had already and will be maintaining these equipment. The SFRSA is also involved in helping towards reforestation and the back packs will be especially useful to carry plants to affected areas.
SNPA chief executive Selby Remy who was also present, enlightened us of the role of SNPA in the project.
“SNPA is responsible for many terrestrial areas including the world heritage site Vallée de Mai. So fighting forest fires in areas which we maintain is one of our priorities. We did have some firefighting equipment but it was time that they be replaced and as we had the chance to partner on this project we found it ideal to invest some of our funds which have been scheduled for this purpose, to purchase our own equipment and do our part in protecting our natural heritage,” said Mr Remy.
Upcoming training will be conducted in the near future and several firefighters and representatives of SNPA will be venturing to Reunion Island for same. This will include observations of techniques used in Reunion to fight forest fires. A local watershed committee on Praslin comprising officers of the SFRSA, MEECC, SNPA, Trass and SIF has also been established for exchange of expertise. One of the purposes of the committee is to enhance the social resilience of local communities to climate change and the donation was made possible through the establishment of this committee.
Photos: Romano Laurence