Timber worth millions missing from Kapilvastu community forestInitially, information about the missing logs was kept hidden by the community forest consumer committee. The incident came to light only after some forest employees disclosed the information.
Over 900 cubic feet of timber logs have been missing from the Shringighat Community Forest area in Banganga Municipality since the last two weeks.
Shringighat Community Forest, which covers wards 1, 3, 4 and 5 of Banganga Municipality, is one of the largest community forests in Kapilvastu district.
Initially, information about the missing logs was kept hidden by the community forest consumer committee. The incident came to light only after some forest employees disclosed the information.
A team of technicians from Motipur Sub Division Forest Office found 939.44 cubic feet of logs missing while tallying the wood cutting records in the field. The record shows that 882 cubic feet of sal logs and 56 cubic feet of Asana, Karman and Kusum logs are missing from the field depot. Those logs were stamped and registered, said forest officials.
On March 6, 2020, the Division Forest Office in Kapilvastu had granted permission to the Shringighat Community Forest Consumers Group to cut down 27,508 cubic feet of wood from the community forest.
Krishna Gopal Koju and Ganesh Bahadur Singh Thakuri, forest consumers of Banganga Ward No. 4, had received a contract to transport, unload, collect and pile timber at the field depot.
On May 28, 2020, the then government ordered forest offices to keep the logs inside the forest until further notice. Then after, works related to transportation and measurement of woods came to a halt.
On January 27, the government scrapped the decision and contractors started to transport logs that were cut and recorded from the forest areas to the field depots.
Since June, timber logs from the Shringighat Community Forest have been brought to the field depot in Madhuban Dham, a part of Shringighat Community Forest around six kilometres from the northern part of Pawar Community Forest in Arghakhanchi.
Forest technicians had then conducted a field measurement of the logs at the field depot.
“The timber logs were found missing when the technicians were measuring logs at the field depot,” said Umesh Kumar Shah, assistant forest officer of Motipur Sub Division Forest Office. “The logs might have gone missing while they were being transported to the field depot or inside the forest.”
The community forest users’ committee is responsible for managing timber in the forest. However, office bearers of the users’ committee and the individuals responsible for managing timber remained tight-lipped about the stolen timber.
After information about the missing logs came to light, the division forest office instructed the forest users’ committee to form a probe committee and investigate the case. A five-member committee headed by Krishna Paudel, the secretary of the forest users’ committee, was formed as per the direction of the forest office.
The committee submitted its preliminary report a few days ago stating that logs were stolen from the community forest. But the report does not mention how and from where the logs were stolen. And the report does not state who is responsible for the incident.
The forest consumers suspect that the probe committee prepared such an incomplete report to protect the guilty.
“The report does not show who was responsible for the missing timber. The case of timber theft will continue unless the guilty are punished,” said a consumer preferring anonymity.
As per the valuation of the community forest users’ committee, the stolen logs cost around Rs 700,000 based on its minimum rate fixed while selling the timber to consumers. However, its market price is more than three fold.
The community forest users’ committee claims that incidents of timber theft are rife in the district since the government imposed a ban on the collection, transportation and sale of timber from the community forest.
Meanwhile, Renu Sen, the chairperson of the community forest consumers’ committee, said, “The contractors who were given responsibility for logging could not complete their work on time. The government later banned the logging and transportation of timber in the community forest. Since the forest guards provide security in the forest area during day time, the timber could have been stolen at night.”