Most wildfires are caused by careless disposal of cigarette butts, funerals inside forests and locals not extinguishing flames after picnics. Livestock owners also deliberately set the undergrowth on fire believing that it will bring up fresh new shoots of grass when the rains come.
Farmers also have a role in increasing wildfires as they set fire to residual straw after harvest, not realising that it can be composted to make bio-fertiliser. Some forest fires are set by poachers to clear the vegetation and catch wildlife for smuggling.
The global climate crisis is also disrupting the water cycle. This has directly impacted rainfall patterns, leading to extreme weather events.
The 1993 Forestry Act allows villagers to protect, manage and utilise their forests. It gave them a sense of ownership, and an incentive to protect and conserve. It is this community spirit that can also control the fires that are threatening past gains.
However, the federal and provincial governments must also do their bit in controlling wildfires. They must allow local decision-making, and equip rural municipalities and wards with resources to continue protecting their forests.
Dev Narayan Mandal is the founding chair of the Mithila Wildlife Trust.