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Expert's radical proposal to future-proof communities against bushfires

Dr Sukhbir Sandhu says establishing fire lines to demarcate areas that are at high risk of bushfires will save lives. Source: AAP

Sustainability expert at the University of South Australia, Dr Sukhbir Sandhu says introducing a fire-line to demarcate bushfire prone land not recommended for human habitation, will save lives and properties in the future.

As Australia continues to battle its worst bushfires that have killed 26 people and over a billion animals besides devouring millions of hectares of land and destroying over 2,000 homes, there are calls for policymakers to act to ensure the community doesn’t similar devastation again.

Dr Sukhbir Sandhu, senior lecturer and sustainability expert at the University of South Australia is calling for establishing fire-lines, just like Goyder’s Line of rainfall that was created in 1865 to identify drought-prone areas, to demarcate area at high risk of bushfires to help people recognise where they can safely live.

“The frequency of fires, the intensity and the ferocity with which they burn are much more brutal. The fire seasons are longer now and the fallout is immense. Our response [to the fires] needs to change,” Dr Sandhu told SBS Punjabi.

“We are asking for a very systematic response. There’s CFS aerial footage, satellite imagery and well-developed models by insurance companies that we suggest policymakers use these tools to identify areas that are most susceptible to bushfires,” she says.

Dr Sukhbir Sandhu
Dr Sukhbir Sandhu says establishing fire-lines to demarcate areas at higher risk of bushfires will help prevent loss of human lives.

Dr Sandhu says this will inform people about the fire risks of particular areas and enable them to make informed choices.

“If someone still wants to build inside or adjacent to the fire-prone area for some reason, then there should be mandated bushfire resilient construction. We have the technology but we don’t have the policy,” she says.

For too long we have burried our head in the sand over climate change. The solutions we are proposing will only work in the short and medium term. But they will have to be coupled with a meaningful leadership on climate change which is currently absolutely missing.

Dr Sandhu says building bushfire resilient homes doesn’t increase the cost very much.

“We know from research in Western Australia where bushfire resilient homes have been built and if the total cost of construction was $500,000,  just five percent of that was the cost of making the building bushfire resilient.”

However, Dr Sandhu stresses that these measures are only temporary.

“This is only short to mid-term solutions. This has to be coupled with a carefully thought out response to climate change. For too long we have buried our head in the sand about climate change. If the developed countries stand up and take responsibility, only then they have the moral authority to ask countries such as India and China to step up.”

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