By Anil Giri
Kathmandu, April 12 (IANS) As many as 1.3 million hectares of forest cover in Nepal has been destroyed by wild fires within a fortnight, officials said on Monday.
The home ministry said at least two people have been killed and huge loss to private properties reported from many parts of the country.
Forest fires were more concentrated in the southern Terai districts of the Himalayan country, destroying flora and fauna on hundreds of hectares of land and posing significant threat to human settlements.
Eighty percent of the forest fires in Nepal are recorded in April and May. On Sunday, a record number of forest fires were reported in the country.
On Monday, Nepal army and police personnel were unable to control a massive fire in Rupandehi district.
The Nepalese ministry of forests and soil conservation’s forests department digector General Resham Dangi told IANS that fire has played havoc in the Terai region, where dense forest covers the Chure area and some districts like Mahottari, Argakhanchi, Sindhuli, Bardiya, Dhanusha and others between Terai and Chure.
“The fire situation is out of control. If prolonged dry conditions continue in the absence of rains, we are likely to experience a state of emergency in the coming days,” Dangi said.
The worst affected is Sindhuli, whose 40 percent forest cover has been reduced to ashes.
Forests in Sindhuli, Argakhanchi, Rupandehi, Mahottari, Dhanusha, Bardiya and Dang have been ravaged by fires in the past week, department officials said. The satellite imagery showed that 457 forests across the country were affected by fires, they added.
Even the National Human Rights Commission has brought to the government notice the forest fires across the country, calling for increased surveillance and deployment of adequate fire-fighting equipment and other logistics to minimise damage to forests and property of the area’s people.
Forest officials warned of more forest fires in coming days since April is the peak summer month in the Himalayan nation.
Every year, forest fires destroy hundreds of hectares of forests and cause huge economic loss in the country.
Nepal came up with a forest fire management strategy in 2011 but failed to formulate a suitable action plan to implement it on the ground.
At the community forestry level, only 67 of the total 19,000 community forestry user groups across the country are equipped with fire-fighting tools and the training required to mitigate the risks.
(Anil Giri can be contacted at [email protected])