Kathmandu: Forest fires across Nepal dramatically rose by 76.5 percent between January and April 2023—when compared with incidents reported over the entirety of the previous year. The country’s Department of Forests and Soil Conservation (DoFSC) reported 1,816 forest fires incidents over this period, and the spike can be attributed to a dry winter and minimal rainfall this year.
Forest fires are a significant threat to ecosystems, wildlife, and human communities worldwide, significantly lowering air quality and adversely affecting public health. In Nepal, forest fires have an early onset in December, peak in April, and recede with the monsoon in June every year. This year, the surge in forest fires led to reduced visibility, with numerous flight cancellations and delays in major airports in April.
To help authorities better monitor and manage forest fires, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) has made available a two-day fire outlook that provides a general index of fire risk throughout Nepal’s forested areas. This tool will enable forest fire managers to anticipate and prepare for future fire danger, making informed decisions about deploying resources, implementing fire prevention measures, and carrying out controlled burns to mitigate fire risk.
“The fire outlook module is another step forward in our efforts to provide innovative and effective remote sensing and geospatial solutions to address forest fires in Nepal,” said Birendra Bajracharya, Chief of Party, SERVIR-HKH, ICIMOD.
The fire outlook module provides a reliable and accurate nationwide assessment of potential fire dangers. It was developed by customizing a Fire Weather Index methodology and feeding data from the High-Impact Weather Assessment Toolkit (HIWAT) – Nepal, including temperature (°C), relative humidity (%), wind speed (km/h), and precipitation (mm).
The module has been incorporated in Nepal’s Forest Fire Detection and Monitoring System, an operational system that provides information on historical forest fires and near real-time fire detection, monitoring, and burnt area assessment. ICIMOD’s SERVIR-HKH initiative, a joint USAID and NASA partnership, developed the system in close collaboration with Nepal’s DoFSC, Ministry of Forests and Environment, in 2012.