Forest fires in 48 places in Nepal

Forest fires in 48 places in Nepal

20 March 2009

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Nepal —

Disastrous fires are burning in 48 different places including several protected areas in Nepal. ‘Fire episode this year is probably the most disastrous in the century’ according to experts.

High intensity and sever fires engulfed Langtang, Makalu Barun, Chitawan, Shivapuri, Bardia National Parks, Kanchanjangha and Manaslu Conservation Areas,  Parsa Wildlife Reserve and Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve. Including these protected areas other 48 wildfires are still burning in different part of the country.

“This is the first time in the history that such unprecedented and severed wildfires episode happened in the Himalayan National Parks and conservation areas in Nepal,” said UNISDR-South Asia Wildland Fire Network coordination Mr. Sundar Sharma. In the past forest fires were mainly low intensities and surface fires.

According to Mr. Sharma, forest fires are mainly concentrated in Bara, Parsa, Makawanpur, Chitawan, Palpa districts and mid-mountain and southern low land including high altitude protected areas.

“Such a disastrous fire never happened before”, Mr. Sharma said to Kantipur, “regular surface fires were common before, but this year many big crown fires completely destroyed our pristine Himalayan ecosystems”.

Uncontrolled severed fires are still burning in Makalu Barun and Langtang National Parks for a week. “40 percent forested areas in Nepal severely affected by fires”, said secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Dr. Uday Raj Sharma. He said, “we don’t have capacity to control them”. “We have already initiated process for a proper management of forest fire by the help of donor agencies” the secretary said.

Research Officer from the Department of Forest Research and Survey Mr. Krishna Acharya said, in other countries fire management is a priority activity for examples, arrangement of trained fire fighters and fire-lines construction etc. But, in our country forest fire management activity is not in annual program.

Generally March-April is a main fire season. Forest fire incidents increase this year with long dry period. According to Planning Officer of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation Mr. Megh Nath Kafle, “58 percent forest fires are caused by intentions, 20 percent by accidents and 22 percent by negligence”.

According to experts, minor source of fire may cause a disastrous forest fire in windy and dry month of March and April. Climate change expert, Mr. Ngamindra Dahal said, “Consequence of climate change increase warming in high altitude Himalayan region and thus increases high incidents of forest fires”.

High altitude region are becoming a ‘hot-spot’ together with changing climate. In the areas temperature is raising by the rate of 0.06 degree Celsius which is 5 times greater than the global average.

There is a change in general trend of forest fires. Generally there are recurrent surface fires every year in Terai region. But this year many severe crown fires in pine forests in Himalayan region. According to experts, fire in the pine forest is unmanageable and burning for a long period.

According to news reports, till 19 March 2009, 11 persons reported dead including children, 11 persons are seriously injured, 508 families affected, 16 houses and 4 sheds were completely destroyed, 105,350 hectares of forests were completely burnt. Personal properties accounting Nepalese rupees 116,550,000 were lost by the forest fires this year. Assessment of damages and rehabilitation of the burnt areas need to be done without delay.

With increasing temperature there are several fires in south Asian countries like Pakistan, India, Bhutan and Bangladesh forming a thick haze above the skies of the countries.

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