Bardibas, March 14;
More than 20 settlements in the far north of Mahottari district are at high risk from forest fire.
These settlements which are located near the forests towards the north and south of the East-West Highway in the district are at high risk with the increasing instances of wildfire, it is learnt.
People in settlements as Bhabsi, Dhungre, Gananta, Bardanda, Tuteshwar, Cheru, Khayarmara and Hathilet of Bardibas Municipality which are close to Banke, Maraha, Tuteshwar and Maisthan forests in the district have been spending nights in vigil due to the forest fire reaching their settlements after seeing bushfires in the nearby forests.
Likewise, the locals of Ramnagar, Belgachhi and Laxminiya among other areas in Gaushala Municipality are also in constant fear of wildfire as their settlements are also close to the forested areas and bush fires often break out in the summer season.
"We do not sleep well for the whole night for fear of forest fire spreading to our settlement," said Min Rahapal, a social worker from Belgachhi.
The risk of forest fire is high in the dry summer season after winter as the dry leaves that drop during the winter are highly prone to catching fire.
Pradip Adhikari of Cheru agrees with Rahapal. Adhikari said they have not been able to sleep well for fear of bush fires that are seen almost daily in the nearby forests. He said although the risk of forest fire had subsided with the rainfall five days back, it has again increased and forest fires have become frequent in the forests of late.
The officials at the District Forest Office, Mahottari say that those starting the forest fires are mostly the people from settlements around the forests. According to them, the locals especially the cattle farmers start the forest fire in the belief that doing so would help in the regeneration of grass and foliage for their cattle for the next season in the patch of the burnt down forest area.
The Office stated that vigilance has been increased to nab those involved in starting the forest fire. Mahottari district has forest cover of about 9,000 hectares, it is stated