More than eight hundred forest fires are blazing across Nepal as we write this report. In 2023 alone, Nepal has recorded more than 6,000 incidents of forest fires – and the number is expected to rise at least significantly in the next few weeks.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority of Nepal (NDRRMA), Nepal recorded 6,279 incidents of forest fires in 2021, the highest ever recorded in a year, with 6,234 incidents of forest fires in 2016 (second highest). 2023 is well on track to become the highest number of forest fires ever recorded in Nepal – with no relief in sight in the coming years unless the earth decides to cool down, or people and governments begin to take action.
In a program held by the NDRMMA in March 2023, officials drew the attention of the government and the public to such extremities. Addressing the program, Sundar Prasad Sharma, Under Secretary at the NDRMMA, said rising temperatures owing to climate change could be a factor in increasing incidents of forest fires.
Nepal experienced a dry winter season this year – with winter rainfall being the lowest in thirty years. According to Sharma, the low amount of precipitation was not enough to curtail the dryness and when the dry season arrived, forests were more susceptible to catching fire. Similarly, Nepal also recorded only 1500 incidents of forest fires last year (2022) – leaving behind a lot of dry twigs and leaves which act as fuel for forest fires.
Nonetheless, the increase in forest fires has affected lives, displacing many households and cattle. Many community forests, which are important lifelines for rural communities as sources of animal fodder, firewood, and other resources are being burned to the ground, affecting years of progress toward environmental sustainability as well.
In Kathmandu, forest fires are contributing to the already poor air quality, ranking the city continuously as the world’s most polluted city in terms of air quality.