Valley under hazardous Asian Brown Cloud

          Valley under hazardous Asian Brown Cloud

17 March 2009

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Nepal — A few days after NASA’s Aqua satellite caught a glimpse of large-scale forest fires in the mountains of Nepal, weathermen and health experts have warned of more wildfires and health hazards they pose for the public.

According to NASA, wildfires appear to be raging in or very close to some of the national parks and conservation areas, including Langtang National Park and Makalu barun National Parks, located along the northern border of the country. The forest fire raging in Langtang National Park in rasua district for the last seven days is said to be the worst of all.

According to the Department of Hydrology and Meteorolgy, wildfires can affect climate and weather and have major impact on regional and global pollution.

Wildfire contains greenhouse gases and a number of pollutants, which can have a substantial impact on human health. Asian Brown Cloud caused by smoke from wilfires, motor vehicles emission, factories and cooking gas has hit many cities in South Asia, including Kathmandu, said ABC expert Sundar Prasad Sharma.

According to a NASA report today, there was a reduction of solar radiation to the surface by as much as 15 percent inKathmandu. Thirty-seven domestic flights were delayed due to poor visibility caused by hazy weather on Sunday.

A weatherman who also blamed the dust particles passing through the northern Indian and Pakistani cities coupled with thick wildfire smoke form the ABC. Apart from Kathmandu, Biratnagar, Pokhara, Dhangadhi and Bhairahawa have also been affected by the ABC, which is concentrated three km above the earth surface and can travel halfway around the globe in less than a week.

Pulmonologist Dr. Rajesh Nepali said, “ABC, which is composed of black carbon and ash, sulphates, nitrates and mineral dust, causes respiratory ailments and plant damage”. A forest official said it could also lead to massive drop in agricultural productivity.

“There is no organization to fight forest fires in Nepal,” said a senior official at the Department of Forests, “The Department does not possess any special unit or team to deal with wildfires.” Unless forest fire surveillance and monitoring are carried out by satellite imagery it will be difficult to make a good assessment of the extent of damage caused by the forest fires.

He said, “forest fires occur annually in all the major physiographic/climatic regions of Nepal, including the Terai and Bhawar, the Siwaliks or the inner Terai, the mid-mountains, and the high mountains.” Forest fires rage during the dry season from February to June.

Department of Hydrology and Meteorology sources say mush of the country has not received any rain since October and the dryness, coupled with high winds, was aiding the forest fires. However, Kathmandu and some other parts of the country were likely to receive rainfall by Monday night or Tuesday.

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