Awarded for for his work on the humanitarian and environmental impacts of wildfires.

Category: Preparedness

Sundar Prasad Sharma, of Nepal, is a forestry professional who in the beginning of his career as a soil conservation officer look at the impacts of fire on ecosystem and soil stability, notably secondary disasters after wildfire, which especially in mountain terrains are often result in more severe disaster as the fire damage itself, e.g. soil erosion, floods, landslides, mudslides, and rockfalls.

While in his works he considered fire management as a key issue in sustainable forest management, he looked at both the negative impacts in fire-sensitive ecosystems as well as the benign role of fire in fire-maintained or fire-tolerant ecosystems, for example, surface fires in resulting in fuel and wildfire hazard reduction, wildlife habitat improvement, or selection of ecologically and economically valuable species). Keeping in mind that most fire in the South Asia region are caused by humans and are affecting primarily rural populations and their properties, the research and outreach work of Sundar Sharma focused on developing concepts and guidelines to promote participatory resource conservation, i.e. how local community can be involved.

He developed a ‘3-levels fire management’ strategy (i.e. community, district and national levels). He has focused on ‘empowering local communities’ for wildfire prevention suitable in least developed country like Nepal. He has been promoting ‘fire management involving local communities, i.e. community-based fire management approach’ in countries in the region to built capacity and raise awareness among communities.

Some model fire management volunteer groups have already been developed in Nepal. At the same time, he has given importance to ‘district (province) level fire administration’ for preparedness and ‘national level policy intervention’ for prevention and preparedness for wildfire emergency.

In the practical action, he as the spiritus rector and leader in founding the UNISDR ‐ Regional South Asia Wildland Fire Network and in networking among scientists, fire managers, academia in countries of the South Asian region. He has been working for institutionalizing wildland fire management in respective governments, catalyzing them towards development of fire management policies. As a result, for example, government of Nepal has approved the “Forest Fire Management Strategy 2010 which is currently in the process of implementation, albeit being a rather slow process due to the economic constraints in the country.