Kathmandu, March 28 -- There were already indications in December that the wildfire season in the Himalaya was starting early. There had been no rain for three months, and the forests were already burning from Piuthan to Pathivara. One forest blaze in Manang started in November and was still raging two months later.

During the Nepal Literature Festival in Pokhara in January, guests noticed the summit of Mt Machapuchre devoid of snow and the base of the mountain covered in smoke from a vast forest fire.

The blazes then spread to Lamjung and Rasuwa, blowing the smoke to Kathmandu where the Air Quality Index (AQI) crossed 500 on the afternoon of 5 January, raising calls for the government to declare a health emergency.

It only got worse i...