Fire ravages conservation area; still out of control
POKHARA, Jan 12: A large rhododendron forest and the wildlife have been destroyed in the fire that broke out in Kaski´s tourist village of Chhomarong in the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) from Monday.
The fire broke out from marijuana stubs thrown by two hotel porters on Saturday. Though locals of Khuldighar in Ghandruk-9 brought the fire under control on Saturday, the fire that had remained inside the jungle has again spread from Monday, ACAP´s Ghandruk office chief Sudeep Adhikari said.
The villagers have been unable to bring the fire under control since it has spread from one hill to another. They have asked ACAP´s central office in Pokhara and the National Trust for Nature Conservation in Kathmandu for helicopter to douse the fire. These bodies say that such facility is not yet available in Nepal while the locals complain that the concerned bodies have not taken immediate steps to control the fire.
The fire broke out in the dense forest at an altitude of about 2,700 meters between Khuldighar and Bambu. The forest area lies on the trekking route to Annapurna and Machhapuchchhre base camps and is rich in wildlife.
"Though there have been no human casualties, forests of rhododendron and nigalo (arrow bamboo) worth millions of rupees have been destroyed in the fire," Adhikari said. "Many endangered species may have also died in the fire."
ACAP Project Director Lal Prasad Gurung, who is in Kathmandu, said he has not seen fire on such scale in his 25-year conservation career. He said the area is home to ratuwa (barking deer), thar, snow leopard, lophophorus, munal and pheasants.
Locals expressed fears that the fire may reach Chhomarong village if not controlled immediately. The fire can also be dangerous for tourists en route to Machhapuchchhre and Annapurna base camps. “The roots of plants go deep into the rocks and stones have been loosened due to the heat and started to fall down on the trekking route,” a local explained.
The area of fire is one day´s walk from Chhomarong and four hours from Ghandruk. Adhikari went toward the affected area with a few staff and officials of ACAP, after talking to myrepublica.com on the phone, but he said he could reach there only on Wednesday.
Likewise, a six-man police team led by assistant sub inspector Chandra Bahadur Bohara from Area Police Office, Ghandruk headed for the area Tuesday morning.
The teenager porters who started the fire in Khuldighar, Ghandruk-9 on Saturday had been arrested but were released after a warning as the fire in village came under control the same day.