With the dry season at its peak, wildfires are causing significant damage to Nepal's forests, animals, and property, putting the health of local residents at risk. According to government data, an average of 77 people have been killed every year in Nepal due to forest and other fire-related incidents. Between 2014 and mid-March 2023, over 18,000 fire incidents took place, resulting in over 760 deaths, 2,500 injuries, and financial losses amounting to over Rs 22.23 billion. These figures are a testament to the devastating impact of wildfires and the need for immediate action to contain them.
The onset of the dry season every year marks the beginning of wildfires in Nepal. With a few more months before the monsoon season begins, authorities must sound the alert and take necessary measures to prevent wildfires. Only on Friday, forests in 108 places in 12 districts of Lumbini Province were on fire, and the authorities' response has been inadequate. The local levels and the forest office have not taken the necessary initiatives to extinguish the fires, and local people lack training in this regard. It is essential to recognize that wildfires are preventable, and human negligence is one of the primary causes of these incidents. Smoking near vegetation, discarding cigarette butts into dry vegetation, arson, and burning dry vegetation to clear farmland are all considered causes of forest fire. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that individuals are aware of the dangers of wildfires and take preventive measures to minimize the risk of wildfires.
The government has taken some measures to control wildfires, such as creating the Forest Fire Detection and Monitoring System and including various programs in the Ministry of Forest and Environment's annual programs for the fiscal year 2022/23. The provincial government of Lumbini has launched various programs to create awareness about wildfire prevention and control. However, more needs to be done to ensure that these measures are effective. The government bodies concerned must first categorize high-risk areas, focus on these areas, and prioritize the implementation of preventative measures, such as the construction of fire lines, cleaning up and repair, and the control of bushfires. Additionally, the government must ensure that firefighting equipment, such as fire beaters, forestry rake hoes, forestry rakes, and firefighter's helmets, are purchased and distributed at the local level.
Moreover, the government authorities concerned must launch awareness programs at the community level to prevent human negligence that causes wildfires. They must educate people about the dangers of smoking near vegetation, discarding cigarette butts into dry vegetation, and arson. Incentives should be given to individuals who report those who engage in activities that could cause wildfires. It is worth noting that wildfires not only cause immediate damage to forests, animals, and properties but also long-term damage to the environment. Wildfire smoke and haze rise high into the atmosphere, causing environmental pollution and compromising the health of residents.
Keeping in view of the preventable loss of life and properties caused by wildfires every year, the government must take urgent action to prevent wildfires in Nepal. The authorities must prioritize high-risk areas, take necessary measures to prevent human negligence, and educate people about the dangers of wildfires. Additionally, firefighting equipment must be provided, and awareness programs must be launched at the community level. We cannot afford to lose any more lives, wildlife, and properties to wildfires. It is our collective responsibility to prevent wildfires and ensure a safer and healthier environment for all.