Disasters & Accidents

Nepal braces for its most polluted year with over 9,000 forest fires

Kathmandu, April 26 (EFE).- Nepal expects this year to be its worst year for the environment with more than 9,000 forest fires expected in the Himalayan nation.

The country has already been plagued by a large number of forest fires that have engulfed Kathmandu in a dense layer of smog.

“This year, we have estimated that forest fire incidents may cross 9,000,” South Asia’s coordinator of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Sundar Sharma, told EFE.

Thus, this year Nepal is expected to surpass the record of 6,279 forest fires registered in 2021.

More than 2,800 forest fires were blazing across Nepal on Apr.19, the highest number in a day, which put the capital city of Kathmandu on alert as it turned into one of the most polluted cities of the world, according to the Air Quality Index.

The amount of smoke and mist concentrated in the Kathmandu Valley has also been a health problem for its 2.5 million inhabitants, who have been experiencing symptoms such as irritation in the nose and throat, cough and breathing difficulties.

Moreover, Nepal did not receive any rain for a period of six months – from the beginning of October to April 23 – in the middle of a dry winter that has made the conditions favorable for the spread of fire through the Himalayas.

In the last decade, the country detected 18,791 incidents of fires that caused the death of 769 people and economic losses to the tune of $170 million, chief executive of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, Anil Pokharel, told EFE.

In that period, at least 2,568 people were injured and 2,803 animals died from the flames, he added.

Ganesh Prasad Tiwari, the spokesperson at the Chitwan National Park, Nepal’s largest national park, told Efe that there have been more incidents of forest fire this year because of the winter drought.

However, he underlined that usually more than 90 percent of fire incidents are from human causes.

“In the park areas, wild animal poachers deliberately burn the vegetation to distract the park officials. If the park officials and security personnel are distracted, it becomes easy for them to kill wild animals,” Tiwari said.

Although the Himalayan nation has made progress in community forest conservation, experts warn that the increase in fires jeopardizes all the progress gained. EFE


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