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Thursday, May 1, 2014

bush fires in Australia and the elephantine solution !!!

The fury of nature often ends in colossal losses ~ how do you prevent them – insurance is one way of protection – insurance can never prevent a loss; but would indemnify the policy holder providing monetary compensation for the loss or damage suffered.  Is this a problem of mammoth proportions or an elephantine solution !!
photo credit : vvs.org.za

The phenomenon of ‘Bush fire’ is not so well heard of here in India but itcommonly occurs in Australia. There were devastating bush fires – described as 2013 Tasmanian bushfires – it was a series of bushfires in south-eastern Tasmania in starting in November/December of 2012, with major fires in early January 2013, right through until late April 2013. Bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months of the year due to Australia's mostly hot, dry climate. Large areas of land are ravaged every year by bushfires, which also cause property damage and loss of life. In  2009 Southern Australia heat wave, which precipitated the conditions,  173 people lost their lives. Bushfires in Australia, are generally defined as any uncontrolled, non-structural fire burning in a grass, scrub, bush, or forested area.  Though we don’t to get to hear its occurrence, the Standard Fire and Special Policy issued in India covers ‘bush fire’ too …

Margaret River is a town in the South West of Western Australia, renowned to be a surfing location… the surrounding area is the Margaret River Wine Region, known for its wine production and tourism.  In 2011, bushfire raged in thse places.  At least 30 homes and chalets - including the historic Wallcliffe House -  were reportedly damaged or destroyed by the fire. Authorities issued an emergency warning to residents; there was another  fire that burnt 4,000 hectares of the Mt Lindsay National Park. The holiday ridge hotels in the region also went up in flames.

It was feared by the authorities that strong winds and temperatures of more than 30 degrees Celsius  were causing the fire to flare again as a huge contingent of firefighters fought valiantly to contain it.  Couple of years later, there is news that legal action is being contemplated against the Department of Environment and Conservation on behalf of a group of Margaret River bushfire victims. It is believed that about 35 people are involved in the class action being organised by a law firm stating that the  financial assistance already offered by the government was not sufficient. They are also seeking compensation for loss of amenity and decline in property values which have resulted from these fires.

Now can you ever imagine this solution………. According to one expert - Australia could introduce large herbivores such as elephants as part of a radical biological solution to the problem of bushfires and invasive species.  A Prof of Environmental change biology put forth this argument.  The programmes designed to address the problem of bushfire and invasive species were described as short-term.   The sheer magnitude of the landscape makes short-term slashing and aerial spraying programs impractical, and biological solutions are needed instead.  The researchers propose that large herbivores like elephants be used as "grass-eating machines" and, used alongside traditional Aboriginal patch burning, to help manage fire risk in the north. It was also suggested that top predators like dingoes could be reinstated to control foxes and cats, and Aboriginal people should be encouraged to hunt feral animals.

Some antagonists immediately opposed stating that  introducing elephants will be unpopular because the animals are a threat to trees and would be difficult to confine behind fences. The idea was ridiculed by some as sounding like a page of Michael Crichton novel ~ but still stated that the experiment would help settle the debate over whether humans or climate change caused megafauna, such as mammoths and giant kangaroos, to become extinct. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

19th Mar 2o14

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