Nepal — Wildfires are nothing new in the months of March and April considering the high winds during this time of the year. Every year thousands of hectares of forest areas and settlement are reduced to ashes. This year it was nothing different as far as the tragedy that such fires caused. Even a spark is enough to spread a blaze for which small efforts cannot do anything to check its spread. As per the latest report 287 houses were gutted in three districts of Parsa, Rautahat and Dang on Saturday itself. Though no life was apparently lost, crores of property were destroyed. These are but a few instances of the havoc that blazes during this time of the year cause. In another recent incident, in the forest of Resunga, Gulmi district, the fire spread to some 3000 hectares of land which is a devastation as it took four days to bring it under control. These are tragedies that could be avoided with the preparedness level enhanced throughout the country. This issue is raised every time that destruction from fire results. But, nothing much is done except paying lip service. The officials of the ministries and the government itself does nothing till the same repeats itself the next year round.
What the country lacks are trained firefighters and fire fighting machines, both of which are inadequate. Even Kathmandu fire brigade, equipped with obsolete firefighting machines, just last year received some sophisticate firefighting machines courtesy some benevolent foreigner donors. This is quite ridiculous when the government or rather the municipality concerned should have taken the initiative for procuring the fire-fighting equipment. Here, there is more talk than action. Now, Kathmandu valley is sprawling on all sides with a burgeoning population but nothing is being done to spruce up the fire-fighting capacity of the fire brigades that there are. This is only creating more problems in urban areas. When the state of the capital city is in such dire straits, it is quite futile to think of better fire-fighting capacity in the rural areas, particularly the Terai and hill forests, which are more prone to blazes during this season.
During this time, as all know, a dry spell and even a lighted cigarette butt can be enough material to start an inferno. This is one place where awareness among the people is lacking. But, raising awareness alone is not enough, there should be a well-thought out plan through which forest fires can be controlled through checks that can break the blaze if it occurs from advancing. But, no such thoughts are on the cards of the government. It is also tragic that the makeshift huts of the people in the Terai are the first to face the brunt in case even if there is a short-circuit a kerosene lamp sets the fire. It all calls for a massive drive to enhance the fire-fighting capacity through the purchase and induction of adequate firefighting machines throughout the country and adequate trained firefighters to man them. It is not a short-term strategy but must be made on a long term. Meanwhile, for the victims of such seasonal fires, relief must come promptly and not go through all that bureaucratic red-tape which the country is renowned for.