Air quality across Nepal has plummeted as more than 2,700 wildfires have raged across the country in the last six months, its worst fire season in a decade, Thomson Reuters reports. The fires have had disastrous effects, especially in regions where residents rely on firewood for cooking fuel and grasses for hay to feed livestock. The fires are fueled by an exceptionally dry winter that saw 75% less rainfall than average, and experts warn increasingly frequent droughts could become more common due to climate change, fueling more wildfires. The air pollution caused by the fires is extreme — schools across Nepal closed for nearly a week at the end of March because the smoke was so irritating to students’ eyes and throats.

At this point, however, schools are open, even with low attendance and even though “those who are attending are not concentrating much,” Bhakta Bahadur Marsangi Magar, vice principal of Saraswati Higher Secondary School in Pyuthan said. They are not closing schools again, he said, not because the situation has improved but because “we are not sure when the pollution level will come down.” (Thomson Reuters Foundation)