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Nepal, the Himalayan forests are burning

by Kalpit Parajuli, Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The burning of thousands of hectares of forest has brought the mountain communities of Nepal to their knees. This week, 225 fires have struck areas scattered throughout the region of the Hindu Kush – Himalayas, causing serious damage to homes and killing wild animals and livestock. Because of the few passable roads, relief efforts are struggling to reach remote villages. The people accuse local governments of underestimating the phenomenon that occurs every year during the dry season.

Mohmad Wakil, Minister for Forests and Soil Conservation National, says: “We are doing our best to control the disaster, but we have no adequate means because of the few funds for fire prevention.” These days, the Kathmandu government has launched a fire alert that could last several weeks.

Tapa Ramesh, head of the National Park Bardia, explains that in a few days thousands of acres of forest have been burned, already affected by fires in recent years. “Many areas are isolated – he says – and we do not yet have precise data on the damage caused to persons, fauna and flora”.

In these years in the Hindu Kush – Himalaya coal mines and timber industry have cleared hundreds of acres of forests and dispersed tons of mercury in soil and into the air, increasing the risk of fires.

According to Prasad Sharma, coordinator for the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction-South Asia Wildland Fire Network this week alone 83% of fires that usually occur in a year were recorded. “The high mercury concentration in areas near the mines – he added – could lead to other devastating fires.” He warns that the line of fire is encroaching on villages. Thousands of people are at risk.

Published Date: Friday, April 27th, 2012 | 10:03 AM

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