Nepal Battles Massive Wildfire on Outskirts of Kathmandu Amid Severe Fire Season

Nepal faces severe wildfire season with over 4,500 incidents, double the previous year. Experts blame climate change, heatwaves, and lack of forest management. Wildfires threaten lives, property, and air quality, urging the government to improve fire control measures.

Salman Akhtar
New Update
Nepal Battles Massive Wildfire on Outskirts of Kathmandu Amid Severe Fire Season

Nepal Battles Massive Wildfire on Outskirts of Kathmandu Amid Severe Fire Season

Nepal is facing a severe wildfire season, with over 4,500 wildfires reported across the country in 2024, nearly double the number compared to 2023. Firefighters and local residents are currently battling a massive wildfire on the outskirts of Kathmandu, the capital city. Authorities have blamed the increase in wildfires on a heatwave and climate change, which has led to drier winters and rising temperatures in the region.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority reports that wildfires are currently raging with 165 incidents reported across 39 districts, with no immediate rain forecast to help control the fires. Two people have died in Lalitpur while trying to douse a fire in the Tapeshwar Community Forest. The fire season in Nepal usually begins in March and is expected to last for at least another month. The difficult terrain in the country makes it challenging to put out the fires.

Why this matters: The severe wildfire season in Nepal highlights the growing impact of climate change on the region. The increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires not only pose a threat to human lives and property but also have far-reaching ecological consequences, affecting biodiversity and air quality.

Experts attribute the rise in forest fires to the lack of sustainable forest management, with people often setting fires to chase away wild animals or to help grow grass faster. "80% of forest fires occur in the four months from late March to late May, and 60% of incidents happen between mid-April to mid-May, which is the current high-risk period," said wildfire expert Sundar Sharma.

The Forest Act has provisions for punishing those involved in setting national forests on fire, but the implementation of the forest fire management strategy has been lacking. The government is urged to increase its capacity to control fire incidents safely and effectively. The Environment Ministry has also noted that the increase in wildfires this year is due to a lengthy drought and heatwave conditions in Nepal's southern plains, with temperatures rising above 40 degrees Celsius in some areas.

The severe wildfire season has also contributed to Kathmandu being ranked the world's most polluted city again, with the Air Quality Index (AQI) reaching 162. Disaster management expert Dr. Dharma Raj Upreti explained that an AQI above 300 is considered a disaster according to the Air Quality Management Action Plan for the Kathmandu Valley. The government has warned that those involved in setting forests on fire could face up to three years in prison or a fine of Rs 60,000.

Key Takeaways

  • Nepal faces severe wildfire season with over 4,500 fires in 2024, double 2023.
  • Wildfires rage across 39 districts, with 2 deaths reported, due to heatwave and climate change.
  • Lack of sustainable forest management and human-caused fires contribute to the crisis.
  • Kathmandu ranked world's most polluted city due to wildfires, with AQI reaching 162.
  • Offenders face up to 3 years in prison or Rs 60,000 fine for setting forests on fire.