Chairman, secretary of Paldevi Community Forest held on charge of illegal logging and timber smugglingAround 100 green Saal trees amounting to 3,000 cubic feet were cut down in Paldevi Community Forest one and a half months ago.
The Division Forest Office in Nawalparasi (East) has arrested Deepak GC, the chairman of Paldevi Community Forest, and Rana Bahadur Jhedi Magar, the secretary of the community forest, on the charge of illegal logging and timber smuggling.
According to Krishna Devkota, information officer at the division forest, the District Court has remanded them to judicial custody for 10 days. GC and Magar were arrested for allegedly working in cahoots with forest representatives and timber smugglers.
Around 100 green Saal trees amounting to 3,000 cubic feet worth around Rs 2.5 million were cut down at the Paldevi Community Forest in Khakara, Binayi Tribeni Rural Municipality Ward No. 5 this monsoon, according to the Division Forest Office.
Kulchandra Dawadi, an investigation officer of the forest office, said the trees were felled in collusion with the representatives of Paldevi Community Forest. “We have found the involvement of GC and Magar, as they did not inform the Division Forest Office about the incident nor did they try to stop the logging,” said Dawadi.
The Division Forest Office was informed about the illegal logging 36 days after the incident. Timber smugglers had mobilised the locals of Khakara Village to chop down the Saal trees.
A team led by Division Forest Officer Purneshwor Subedi had gone to Khakara for inspection. Almost all 38 families of the village have fled fearing arrest from the forest office for chopping the trees.
Jamuna Ale, a resident of Khakara Village, said she decided to stay in the village while all others were fleeing, as she had been visiting her home when the tree-cutting took place.
“I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t a part of it, so I stayed back,” Ale said.
Dawadi said they are facing difficulties to conduct an investigation, as there’s no one in the village.
“Most of the houses are padlocked in Khakara,” he said.
The incident site is around 31 kilometres north from Dumkibas Bazaar.
Meanwhile, Bishnu Bahadur Karki, chief district officer, said, “We will deploy police personnel to provide security to the villagers. They needn’t fear arrest if they haven’t done anything wrong.”
Chakra Pani Timilsina, the former chairman of Paldevi Community Forest, blamed high-level officials of the Division Forest Office, representatives of the community forest and the ward chairman of being involved in illegal logging and timber smuggling.
“The incident came to light as they were fighting amongst themselves for financial reasons,” said Timilsina.
Meanwhile, Dambar GC, the chairman of Binayi Tribeni Rural Municipality, said he has been informed of the villagers fleeing their homes.
“We have sent some representatives from the rural municipal office to find the villagers and talk to them. There’s no need for them to leave their homes,” he said.