May 27, 2024, Monday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Let’s utilize the forest waste to convert to renewable energy to control devastating forest fire

The Nepal Weekly
May 7, 2024

The situation of forest fires in the country has been worsened day by day. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority has reported that wildfires are currently taking place 165 places in 39 districts as of first week of May. That was expanded more in many forests near settlements as well. Moreover, it is recorded that ’80 percent of forest fires occur in the four months from late March to late May. While 60 percent of fire incidents occur between mid-April to mid-May. That means it is a high risk period from the point of view of forest fire in Nepal.

Experts say, increasing temperature due to climate change is one of the main reasons for the rising number of incidents related to forest fires. When there are more dry twigs and leaves in jungles, they lead to additional incidents of forest fires. This is because the dry branches and leaves act as fuel for forest fires. 

It is remarkable that the country’s forest cover has increased significantly from 26 per cent to nearly 45 per cent over the past 25 years. Hence, it is said that Nepal’s forests occupy roughly 5.96 million hectares of landmass.

Forest fires have not only hit many people hard directly but also become a major cause of air pollution. Urban areas like the Kathmandu Valley have seen a dramatic increase in the level of air pollution, causing damage to the health of people. It is quite worrying that Kathmandu often gets ranked as the world’s most polluted city when it comes to air quality. Forest fires occurred in different parts of the country cause an increase in the level of air pollution in main cities such as Kathmandu. 

The weather forecast is not showing any symptom till Saturday. However, some symptom has been seen of possible light rain on Sunday while on Monday and Tuesday a fair amount of rain may take place. That will relief to some extent. That means forest fires are likely to slow down.

Nepal is affected by widespread wildfires, which are destroying nature and strongly impacting air quality, causing health issues for millions of citizens as well. Due to the lack of rainfall and growing number of wildfire incidents, pollution levels usually worsen during this season, causing various long-term and short-term respiratory issues amongst the local population.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority of Nepal (NDRRMA), Nepal recorded 6,279 incidents of forest fires in 2021, the highest ever recorded in a year, with 6,234 incidents of forest fires in 2016 (second highest). 2023 is well on track to become the highest number of forest fires ever recorded in Nepal – with no relief in sight in the coming years unless the earth decides to cool down, or people and governments begin to take action.

In the first four months of 2022, more than 960 forest fires were recorded by the Ministry of Forests and Environment. The consequences are significant: the fires have damaged houses, destroyed vegetation and severely reduced air quality, with the associated health-related consequences.

Similarly, during January 1 and June 16, 2023, Nepal witnessed 2,294 forest fires–118 percent more than in all of 2022, according to the country’s Department of Forests and Soil Conservation (DoFSC). This unprecedented spike in forest fires is attributed to a dry winter and minimal rainfall resulting from climate change.

The causes of forest fires are identified as human intentions that some people put fire knowingly to gain some out of fired forests, leave fire near forests (even burning cigarette but) ignoring the result of forest fire unknowingly, wind can also take fire to forest from human settlements. However, the authorities, local leaders and laymen must have enough knowledge and devices to bring forest fires into control by utilizing local knowledge, firefighting small instruments.

Converting forest waste to energy is one viable solution which reduce risk of forest fire and utilize the fodders into renewable energy.

In Nepal, a few briquette and pellet industries have been opened. They are producing alternatives to coal. The products are efficient in producing good results.

Moreover, pellets and briquettes produced by using forest residue, agricultural residue and waste materials are to be used as heating source for industries to replace use of coal. Due to price rise of coal in the international market and labeled as one of the polluting elements contributing to climate change effects, coal needed to be replaced.

Experts say that fodder and waste produced naturally in one hector of forest can be made one ton of briquette. Another thing they mention is a whole some of energy produced by a cylinder of LPG (14.2 kg) can be recovered from 30 kg of briquette.

Collections and management of fodders and wastes can be an effective measure to avoid risk of forest fire. So the methodology applied by some clever locals who take benefits from community forest should be replicated. They collect the fodders and waste from forest, put them in a pit, sprinkle water over the collected matter, cover it well and fire. That turns charcoal like substance which is sold to briquette factories. Thus, this methodology if applied, 172,000 hector supposed to be destroyed by forest fire in dry season (March to May) may be saved. Remarkably, the community that is applying this method has saved their forest from fire for last 10 years. That means, supporting briquette making industry by supplying waste materials of forest is both saving forest from fire and also it generating income. Moreover, this act also provides employment to some locals as well. (By Purna N. Ranjitkar)