Wildfire, poaching and tree felling go unchecked in forests of Morang and MahottariForest officials claim that the poachers sparked wildfires to trap the wildlife.
Incidents of wildfire, poaching of wildlife and felling down of trees have been on the rise in several forests in Tarai districts over the past few weeks.
Taking advantage of the lockdown enforced nationwide since March 24 amid fears of the possible spread of Covid-19, the miscreants entered the forests to cut down trees and poach wild animals. Forest officials claim that the poachers sparked wildfires to trap the wildlife.
In Morang, wildfires burnt hectares of land in several forests in the Charkoshe area in the past three weeks. According to the Division Forest Office in Morang, around 110 hectares of forest land were destroyed by fires since the country enforced the lockdown.
There are 134 community forests and four collaborative forests in the Charkoshe forest area of Morang district. The forest office said the wildfires destroyed vegetation in 30 community and two collaborative forests, destroying habitats of wildlife and birds.
“Security personnel, forest employees and guards controlled the fire. Poachers and the locals who went to the forest to collect firewood and fodder might have caused the fire,” said Bishal Ghimire, chief at the division forest office. Search is on to detain the guilty involved in the forest fire, Ghimire added . According to him, incidents of fire were reported almost everyday in several forests in the past two weeks.
“There was not much damage as forest officials and security personnel were able to contain the fires on time,” said Ghimire.
The forest office also arrested three persons in possession of two guns while they were hunting wild animals in a Morang forest a week ago. Gamar Bahadur Yogi and Kisan Karki of Kerabari in Morang and Kiran Dhimal of Dhaijan, Jhapa were held with the weapons while they were hunting animals in Salakpur Community Forest and Lohandra Community Forest in Salakpur, said Ghimire. According to him, the poachers mainly hunt deer, wild boar, blue bull, and the kalij pheasant, among others found in the local forests.
Meanwhile, local residents have been illegally collecting firewood and fodder in several forests during the lockdown. According to Dinesh Giri, chairman of the Belbari Chisang Collaborative Forest Consumers’ Group, as many as 50 bicycles and some sharp-edged tools were seized from the locals entering the forest to gather firewood.
In Mahottari, timber smuggling goes unchecked in various community forests during the lockdown. “The local people who enter the forest in the name of collecting firewood and fodder were found cutting down green trees,” said Santosh Yadav, ranger at the sub-division forest office in Gadhanta. He added that the forest office was investigating the incident. “Keeping deforestation in view, the forest office has increased patrolling in the forest even during the night,” said Yadav.
Likewise, logs that were piled up in Panikholsi forest area are being stolen. Around 12,000 trees were cut down during the construction of the Hetauda-Dhalkebar transmission line two years ago and their logs piled up in the forest so far. Around 8,000 cubic feet timber that the authorities piled up then is still in the forest.