750 hectares of forest area ravaged by wildfires in Kaski

Bijay Nepal 02 May 2024
750 hectares of forest area ravaged by wildfires in Kaski

POKHARA: Wildfires have ravaged 750 hectares of forest area in Kaski over the past one and a half months.

According to Battalion No. 24 of the Armed Police Force (APF) in Pokhara, there have been 26 incidents of forest fires in 19 forested areas from mid-March to the end of April. Fires in five community forests in Kaski – Lhotse Community Forest and Ghaledanda Community Forest in Pokhara-23, the Kristi Community Forest in Pokhara-21, Archale Community Forest in Pokhara-27, and Kaskikot Community Forest in Pokhara-24 – remain uncontained, according to Arun Poudel Sharma, Chief of Battalion No. 24 of APF.

In addition to the community forests, there was one fire incident involving private property. On April 21, the house of Liladhar Timilsina (56) in Jaimure of Pokhara-16 was gutted by fire. His two-room brick house suffered damages worth around Rs 200,000.

A total of 127 fire incidents have been recorded in the district during the current fiscal year, according to the District Police Office, Kaski.

Data compiled by the Division Forest Office, Kaski, shows 46% out of 201,700 hectares of the district’s total area, is covered by forests. While the Annapurna Conservation Area spans 65,506 hectares, the Division Forest Office, Kaski, manages 28,695 hectares of forest area.

Wildfires during the dry season before the onset of monsoon rains can cause significant damage to forest areas, according to experts.

Although government agencies have been conducting awareness programs to reduce fire incidents on a regular basis, the frequency of wildfires has not decreased. Wildfires harm birds, animals, plants, biodiversity, and the environment, which also affects human settlements. The fires in the forests of Kaski and surrounding areas are major contributors to increased air pollution Due to high air pollution levels, doctors have advised people to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities.

Officials say it is difficult to determine the perpetrators of wildfires. However, the law has prescribed punishments for those involved in such incidents. According to Sections 49 and 50 of the Forest Act, 2019, anyone found guilty of starting a forest fire can be fined for the damages caused, imprisoned for up to three years, or subjected to a fine of up to Rs 60,000, or both. Similarly, Section 285 of the National Penal Code, 2017, stipulates imprisonment for up to four years and a fine of up to Rs 40,000 for those causing damage by setting fires in forests.

According to the APF, rescue teams can reach incident sites within 15 minutes. “However, it might take up to 45 minutes in rural areas,” said Inspector Bishwaraj Tripathi, commander of the Regional Disaster Management Team. “A 50-member team, with five trained to fight fires, is always on standby. They are equipped with mini fire engines, fire suits, and other necessary equipment.”

Published On: 02 May 2024


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