The fear of desert fires

Fire safety is a major concern for Thar’s residents

The fear of desert fires


har desert is a challenging place to live in, especially during the hot summers. High temperatures and strong winds increase the incidence of fires in the area from April to July. The consequent loss of homes and valuable possessions, including food, sheep, goats and domestic animals then makes life more difficult for the people.

One of the primary causes of these fires is man-made disasters resulting from negligence and irresponsibility. Understandably, no one wants to see their house on fire. However, accidents still happen. The traditional practice of using wooden fences around homes, has led to an increase in the number of fire incidents. In most houses, such fences surround kitchens.

Another significant cause of fire incidents is the extraction of honey, a crucial source of income for many people in Thar desert. Lack of attention and care during the extraction has led to many fires that could have been avoided. Villagers must consider the direction of the wind during the extraction of honey to prevent major accidents.

Cooking under an open sky or using wooden chounra is another reason for fires in the Thar desert. To address this issue, we need to promote the use of energy efficient stoves at the village level and control coal or fire flames with water to prevent damage. Throwing cigarette butts, broken pieces of glass or mirrors, and burning garbage in the village are also significant causes of fire-related accidents.

It is important to dispose of trash properly and avoid throwing empty medicine bottles, which can cause fires by reflect concentrating sun rays. The use of poor-quality electric wires and illegal connections too is a major issue. It is important to handle electric wires properly and avoid the misuse of electricity. Moreover, the sale of petrol at village shops must be regulated and monitored to prevent fires caused by mishandling. Playing cards and smoking cigarettes with matches are also common practices that can lead to fire incidents and must be avoided or done with caution in desert areas. Until we improve our attitudes and behaviours, we will continue to suffer losses in Thar. It is crucial to take necessary precautions to avoid fire incidents. Villagers must be careful when handling flammable materials and dispose of waste at central locations outside the village. Furthermore, shopkeepers should refrain from selling cigarettes and matchboxes to children, and people should be cautious when smoking and dispose of cigarette butts in a safe way.

The following strategies can be implemented to reduce the incidence of fires in the Thar desert.

Educating the local community about the danger of fire and the ways to prevent it can be helpful in reducing the number of fire incidents. Awareness campaigns can be conducted to educate people about the risks associated with fire and the measures that can be taken to prevent it.

The use of modern technologies such as solar cooking devices and energy-efficient stoves can be helpful in reducing the number of fire incidents. The government can also provide subsidies to promote the use of such technologies in Thar.

Proper disposal of garbage is crucial in preventing fire incidents. Garbage should be disposed of at a location outside the village and not burnt in the open.

Honey extraction should be done in a controlled manner, considering the direction of the wind, to avoid potential fires.

Sensitisation is a crucial aspect of any disaster management strategy. It involves educating people and raising awareness among them about the risks of fire and the importance of preventive measures.

Smoking should be banned in areas where there is a high risk of fire, such as near wooden structures.

Training firefighters in the Thar desert can help them respond quickly and effectively to fire incidents.

The government should enforce regulations regarding the use of electricity, the sale of petrol and the disposal of garbage to ensure that people follow safe practices.

The youth can play a significant role in preventing fires in Thar. They can be mobilised to spread awareness about the dangers of fires and educate people about the measures that can be taken to prevent them. Youth-led campaigns can be organised to promote preventive measures and for sensitisation purposes.

The role of women in preventing fires cannot be overstated. In Thar, women are the primary caretakers of the household and are responsible for cooking, cleaning and taking care of the family. As such, they play a critical role in preventing fires by promoting safe cooking practices and ensuring that flammable materials are disposed of properly.

Thari women have a deep understanding of the environment and its challenges. They possess traditional knowledge and practices that can help in preventing fires. For instance, women in the Thar have been using clay stoves for generations, which are less prone to fire accidents than open fires. They also have the knowledge of the right kind of fuels to use for cooking, such as dried cow dung cakes that have a lower risk of causing fires than other fuels.

The district administration can also work with other stakeholders, such as NGOs and civil society organisations, to promote sustainable management practices and encourage local communities to participate in conservation efforts.

Sensitisation is a crucial aspect of any disaster management strategy. It involves educating people and raising awareness among them about the risks of fire and the importance of preventive measures. By educating and sensitising students in the desert area to the dangers of fires and the importance of prevention and preparedness, teachers can help create a culture of safety and resilience in their communities.

In India, Rajasthan, the Forest Department has initiated a Fire-Free Village campaign to prevent forest fires. Under this programme, the local communities are involved in raising awareness about the hazards of forest fires. They are also trained to use basic firefighting equipment. In some areas, the government is promoting the use of fire-resistant materials in construction, such as clay tiles, instead of thatched roofs. This can help prevent fires from spreading quickly and causing extensive damage.

Preventing fires in the Thar desert is not only important for the safety and well-being of the local community but also aligns with several SDGs. By implementing these strategies and best practices in other countries, we can reduce the number of fire incidents in the Thar desert, and prevent the loss of lives and property. It is imperative that everyone in the community should work together towards this goal.

The writer has more than 12 years of experience in the development sector. He can be reached at

The fear of desert fires