Timber smuggling resumes in SarlahiFelling and smuggling of trees go unchecked due to the lack of effective patrolling in the forest areas.
The felling and smuggling of sal trees goes rampant in several forests of Sarlahi, a Tarai district of Madhes Province.
Janakinagar collaborative forest in Hariharpur Municipality-1 has become a safe haven for timber smuggling in the past few years. According to the local people, timber smuggling goes unchecked due to the lack of effective patrolling in the forest area.
“It is apparent that some local people are also involved in the smuggling of timber in collusion with the office bearers of the forest committee and the employees of the division forest office,” said a local resident of Hariharpur-1, who asked to stay anonymous.
The smugglers had cut down dozens of sal trees and smuggled the timber in the months of October and November last year. The felling and smuggling of timber came to a halt for a few months following the coverage of the issue by various news media outlets, including The Kathmandu Post.
“However, the felling and smuggling of trees has resumed in Janakinagar collaborative forest. The concerned authorities seem indifferent to controlling the timber smuggling,” said the local.
Janakinagar collaborative forest spreads across 1,200 hectares of land. The smugglers cut down green sal trees, log them and smuggle them using bicycles and tractors.
More than 100 sal trees have been cut down in the forest in the past few months.
“Patrolling should be intensified in the forest area to control timber smuggling,” said another local of Ghurkauli, who also wished his name to be withheld. “But the division forest office and forest consumers’ committee are indifferent to strengthening security in the area. The security team patrol the forest occasionally and that too when the local people pressurise them.”
The office-bearers of Janakinagar collaborative forest admit that there has been an increase in timber smuggling in the forest of late.
They, however, claim that smuggling cannot be controlled by the forest office alone.
Ram Bishwas Raya, the chairman of Janakinagar collaborative forest, said that the forest office, forest committee and the local people should work hand in hand to control deforestation and timber smuggling. According to him, the forest has just three armed forest guards and they are not enough to patrol the forest regularly.
“We requested the division forest office and federal forest ministry several times to mobilise more armed forest guards for patrolling but our requests remain unaddressed. The forest committee alone cannot control the illegal felling and smuggling of trees,” said Raya.
According to the sub-division forest office in Janakinagar, there are just eight employees at the office.
“Three employees have been mobilised in the Chure forest area while five are deployed in the forests situated south from the East-West Highway. With such limited resources, forest patrolling is not effective,” said Subas Sah, chief at the sub-division office.
The division forest office claims that the people of various settlements near the forest are involved in timber smuggling.
“The forest office recovered timber of illegally felled trees while raiding the area at different times,” said Santosh Jha, chief at the division forest office.
The security personnel seized smuggled timber of sal trees felled in Janakinagar collaborative forest.
Similarly, an Armed Police Force (APF) team seized 57.4 cubic feet of timber hidden in the forest area on Thursday. According to the APF base camp in Hariwan, the seized timber worth around Rs 300,000 was handed over to the division forest office for investigation. Similarly, the APF seized a tractor loaded with 36.76 cubic feet of smuggled timber on Saturday.
According to Jha, the forest office has recently asked for a clarification from the forest consumers’ committee of Janakinagar collaborative forest regarding the felling of trees and timber smuggling.