Satellite imagery showed most of the big fires were in and around the national parks along Nepal’s northern areas bordering Tibet. Active fires were recorded in renowned conservation success stories like the Annapurna, Kanchanjunga, Langtang and Makalu Barun national parks – host to rare species such as snow leopards and red pandas. More than 100 yaks reportedly were killed in areas surrounding one conservation area.
Ghanashyam Gurung, a director at the environmental organisation WWF’s Nepal office, said there has been an “unusually long dry spell” this year. If the fires become a regular phenomenon, Nepal will emit increased carbon-dioxide levels into the atmosphere. For nearly six months, no precipitation has fallen across most of the country. Rivers are running at their lowest, and because most of Nepal’s electricity comes from hydropower, the country has been subject to power cuts up to 20 hours a day.
Experts say the severity of dryness fits in the pattern of increasing extreme weather that Nepal has witnessed in recent years. “We can contend that this … is one of the effects of climate change,” said Nirmal Rajbhandari Rajbhandari, chief of Nepal’s department of hydrology and meteorology.
Arun Bhakta Shrestha of the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, said the extreme weather “could be related to climate change”, but noted a lack of regional studies, observation and data.
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