Govt braces for forest fires as dry season begins

Kathmandu, March 9

It has been six years since the Forest Fire Management 2010, an action plan to mitigate the risks related to forest fires, was endorsed by the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, but the future of the plan remains bleak.

With no policy-level nudge for the plan, the compiled list of strategy to involve local communities and stakeholders in forest fire management seems to be only on paper.

With the dry season, a peak period for forest fires, fast approaching, the forest ministry said it had placed top priority on measures

to overcome and minimise forest fires.

“With the cooperation of local community, the ministry will launch field-level programmes with holistic approach,” said Dhananjaya Paudel, spokesperson for the forest ministry.

“As many as 166 fire incidents were reported on a single day (March 7) this year,” said Sundar Sharma, Regional South Asia Wildland Fire Network coordinator, adding that the government must hasten the process to save the forests during the approaching dry season.

Reports show that 35 places in the Tarai region had forest fires today and 94 such incidents were recorded on Wednesday.

In Nepal, the ‘season of wildfire’ occurs from mid-February to May.

The onset of dry and windy season witnesses a rise in temperature sparking off wildfires across the country’s forests, especially in the Tarai districts.

On April 25, 2009, there were 420 incidents of wildfire, which is the highest recorded wildfire incidents on a single day.

After the mass destruction in 2009, the government intervened to address the threat of wildfires and formulated forest policy to combat fires and prepare local communities for the disaster.

The current Forest Fire Management of 2010 is one of the outcomes of policy brainstorming post-2009.

The strategy has four pillars for forest fire management in Nepal — policy, legal and institutional development and improvement; education, awareness raising, capacity building and technology development; participatory (involving local community) fire management and research; and coordination    and    collaboration,    international    cooperation,    networking,    and infrastructure development.

The objectives of the strategy are to   develop   and   strengthen   necessary   policy   and   institutions   for   forest   fire management; to  mobilise  local  communities,  civil societies,  government  and  non-governmental organisations to prevent and control forest fires; to  develop  communication  and  information  management  system  for  forest  fire  disaster mitigation; to incorporate wise use of fires for ecosystem management and for livelihoods of the local people living in forest areas.