Wednesday, 19 May, 2021

Douse Forest Fires

Parmeshwar Devkota

Unlike previous years, the spring season this year has turned ruthlessly dry. Therefore, the fire has been engulfing the forests in a record number of places across the country simultaneously. As the fire is spreading deep into dense jungles, it is consuming everything that comes on its way. Rising incidents of fire are sending dust, smoke and ashes into the air in Terai and the mountainous region, blocking the sunlight and reducing visibility.
Declining air quality has created serious health hazards for people of all age groups. Those living with severe illnesses such as asthma and heart problems are at a higher risk. A medical doctor, in a Nepal Television talk programme, said that air pollution can cause eye ailments like conjunctivitis, and skin and respiratory diseases along with other complications.
But, we seem helpless to tackle this catastrophe. There was a popular saying: ‘Green forest is the wealth of Nepal’. If the green forest is the wealth of this country, then, every citizen has to protect it. Nepal’s constitution has specified 31 fundamental rights but it has spelt out only four duties. The Sub-clauses (c) and (d) of Clause 48 states: “We should render compulsory service as and when the State so requires’, and ‘to protect and preserve public property’.
If we enjoy plenty of rights, we must also meet our duties. It is the responsibility of people to douse the fire taking place nearby their residences. The locals, who are using the forest products, should do everything in his/her capacity to fight the fire that is destroying the protected, community and grazing forests. Some locals have taken pictures of forest fires and have been posting them in social media instead of putting them out. This sort of behaviour indicates the derelict of moral and constitutional duties on their part.
Just recall our forefathers’ time when they did not have adequate manpower, equipment, resources but they applied indigenous skill, strength and will power to extinguish the forest fire. They used to form fire extinguishing squads as per their pocket areas and used to barricade forest sites by digging mud channels and cutting down the trees and bushes so that the fire could not spread to those areas.
Compared to those days, we are well-equipped today. We have local level governments, workers of various political parties and social organisations. The local institutions and individuals are resourceful and they can supply the equipment necessary to contain the fire. But, it is sad to say that neither of the organisations nor the individuals has so far been making prompt and effective attempts to contain the raging fire.
The majority of village youths are interested only in taking the shots of the forest fire with their shiny cell phones and post them on Facebook to share with their friends and fiancés. Neither do we fulfil our constitutional obligations by merely posting and commenting these photos and videos of forest fire nor will the forest fire die down itself when we remain passive.