Fires in Nepal

Fires in Nepal

23 March 2009

Unprecedented Wilfire Disaster 2009 in Nepal

Nepal has witnessed severe wildfire incidents during the second week of March 2009. The media highlighted many wildfire incidents and its consequences on economy, human being, culture and ecology. In total 634 hot spots were detected and 45 burning days were found throughout the country from 1 January to 22 March 2009 (FIRMS-MODIS/UMD/NASA). High intensity crown fires in Himalayan National Parks and Conservation Areas  occurred for the first time in history.

A total of 11 people were reported dead, 11 seriously injured, 16 houses and 4 sheds were completely destroyed and a total of 508 families have been affected. The estimated total loss of personal properties is above NRs 116,550,000 (1 USD = about NRs 83) due to the uncontrolled forest fires. The loss could be manifold if losses of timber and other forest products including wild animals and medicinal herbs were included. According to the news reports, 105,350 hectares of forested area have been either completely burnt or severely damaged. Many endangered wild animal including red panda, musk deer etc. have been killed. Hundreds of valuable medicinal plant species in many burnt areas have been completely destroyed. But the national capability to deal with these wildfires is insufficient. Moreover, a detailed assessment of damages has not been started yet.

Transboundary wildfires and haze pollution are another emerging issue which needs to be addressed collectively. A border crossing transboundary fire in Sindhulachowk district near Tatopani area coming from Khasa (Tibet) was attended by the Chinese force and by the local Miteri Yougth Club to protect Liping market and monestry.

On 12 March 2009, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite caught a glimpse of a relatively rare event: large–scale forest fires in the Himalaya Mountains of Nepal. Places where the sensor detected active fires are outlined in red.

The image is centered on Nepal and shows the towering Himalaya Mountains arcing through the small country. Many national parks and conservation areas are located along the northern border of the country, and the fires appear to be burning in or very near some of them.

(source: Earth Observatory, 12 March 2009)

Wildfires in the region contributed to a tick blanket of smoke hunging over the south of Hindu-Kush Himalaya mainly south of Nepal (covering major cities like Dhangadi, Bhairahawa, Nepalganj, Pokhara, Kathmandu, Biratnagar etc.), the north and eastern region of India (covering Sitapur, Gorakhpur, Patana, Bhagalpur, Kolkota etc.) and most of the western part of Bangladesh on 16 March 2009, when the MODIS on NASA’s Terra satellite passed over head and captured this image (Image 3).

The cloud is considered mainly due to the vegetation fires, urban and industrial pollutions, agricultural burning, and bush clearing. This cloud is similar to the Asian Brown Cloud (UNEP 2007) but appeared also in this summer which needs further validation.

These so called brown clouds have a major impact on air quality, human health (lung, heart and eye diseases), regional climate, and natural resources. Due to this haze many domestic flights in Nepal have been cancelled and some international air flights have been delayed in Nepal these days.

The situation seems to be improving (compare images 1 with 2 and 3 with 4 below) due to precipitations over the last days. But the sky over Kathmandu valley is still covered by the haze which is mainly smoke from forest fires in and near Langtang National Park during last week. The smoke was transported by southerly wind towards Kathmandu.

Image 1: ABC over South Asia (Source: Earth Observatory, 20 March 2009)

Image 2: ABC over South Asia (source: Earth Observatory, 16 March 2009)

Image 3: 11 fires detected over the past 24 hours in Nepal (Source: FIRMS-MODIS/UMD/NASA, Date: 22 March 2009, 04:50:00 UTC)

Image 4: 74 fires detected over the past 24 hours in Nepal (Source: FIRMS-MODIS/UMD/NASA, Date: 12 March 2009, 08:59:04 UTC)

Source: Sundar Sharma

See also latest news on the media page:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien