Fires in Nepal

Fires in Nepal

24 April 2009


Forest fires are razing in 75 places over the past 24 hours in Nepal (Image 1). Thirteen Nepalese army soldiers died fighting a forest fire in the eastern part of the country amid strong winds Thursday (23 April 2009). The soldiers were killed when the fire suddenly came from the opposite direction aided by heavy winds. The 13 victims were on the front line of the firefighting operations in which 130 soldiers were involved. They seemed to have been trapped in a hollow.

According to today’s MODIS NASA image, there are still two hotspots about 25 kilometer South-east from Manthali Bazar (Latitude: 27.198, Longitude: 86.186 as of 2009-04-24, Time: 07:10 UTC; and Latitude: 27.214, Longitude: 86.231 as of 2009-04-23, Time: 20:15 UTC) Whole Bardia National Park seems to be burning! Two fires about 15 km south of Capital Kathmandu are coming closer to the nearby settlements. About 20 fires are critically dangerous to the settlements near to Dharan, Lahan, Baglung, Butawal, Bhairahawa, Tansen, Tulsipur, Kohalpur, Dhangadi etc.

According to Weather Forecasting Division of Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, temperature is raising throughout the country. In some places of Terai districts (e.g. Bhairahawa) temperature is recorded upto 41 degree Celsius which is above 2 degree Celsius above to normal in this season. In one hand, the extended dry period and extreme temperature aggravate the incidents of forest fires in Nepal. On the other hand, forest fires worsen global warming and make it harder for societies to adapt to drought and higher temperatures. Therefore, there is clear interaction between forest fires and climate change regime making a vicious circle between them.

A recent study (by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, California) reveals that the emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas adding to global warming, are about equal to half the output from burning fossil fuels such as coal, Balch and colleagues wrote in a study published yesterday in the journal Science on the role of fire in the climate system. Almost two-third of the forest areas in Nepal experiences frequent fires during the fire season.

A total of 35 people were reported dead, 3 people missing, 12 seriously injured, 39 houses and 15 sheds were completely destroyed in this fire season.

 


Image 1: 75 fires detected over the past 24 hours in Nepal (Source: FIRMS-MODIS/UMD/NASA, Date: 24 April 2009, 08:58:23 UTC) (FIRMS-MODIS/UMD/NASA)

Wildfires in the countries in the region are contributing to a tick blanket of smoke (Asian Brown Cloud) hunging over the south of Hindu-Kush Himalaya mainly south of Nepal (covering major cities e.g.  Butawal, Birgunj, Jankpur, Biratnagar etc.) on 24 April 2009, when the MODIS on NASA’s Terra satellite passed over and captured the image (Image 2). The brown cloud is barrier by the Himalaya range and confined in the south of it. These so called brown clouds have a major impact on air quality, human health (lung, heart, skin and eye diseases), regional climate, and natural resources.

AERONET_EVK2-CNR.2009114.terra.1km(240409)-2.jpg
Image 2: Asian Brown Cloud (ABC) over Nepal (Source: NASA’s Earth Observatory, 24 April 2009)

Forest fires are largely overlooked by decision makers and climate-change modelers despite there are huge losses of lives, socio-economic and environmental assets and contributing to the regional and global climate change and secondary disasters like mud flow, floods, landslides soil erosion etc.

See also updates on Forest fires in Nepal:

·        Nepal (23 March 2009)

See also latest news on the media page:


 

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