Dakhakwadi residents struggle to keep sandalwood smugglers at bayMore than a dozen sandalwood trees were stolen from the Pyuthan village in the past six months.
Local farmers of Dakhakwadi in Pyuthan Municipality-1 are having a tough time protecting their sandalwood trees from smugglers.
“Smugglers enter the sandalwood grove at night to steal the trees,” said Gobinda Pokharel of Dakhakwadi. Two of his sandalwood trees, approximately 35 years old, were stolen from his field on August 6 and August 9 respectively. “I took great care of those trees over the years. These trees are our only source of income and we haven’t been able to save them from being stolen.”
Pokharel has around 10 sandalwood trees in his field, which is around two kilometres from his house.
“My field is near the forest. It’s not possible for us to guard the field throughout the night,” he said. “We have asked the local authorities to look into the matter and provide security in the area to control theft.”
According to him, he has incurred a loss of approximately Rs 150,000 after two of his sandalwood trees were stolen.
Dakhakwadi is considered a pocket area of sandalwood groves. There are around 150 households and each household has 10-12 sandalwood trees on average.
According to the local people, more than a dozen sandalwood trees were stolen from the area in the past six months.
“Thieves cut down our trees and take away precious wood at night. If this continues, there won’t be any sandalwood trees left in the village,” said Narayan Dhami of Dakhakwadi. He also recently lost his 30-year-old sandalwood tree to smugglers.
According to Dhami, the local people have filed complaints at the District Police Office and the Division Forest Office about the theft on numerous occasions but neither of the offices has so far taken any concrete initiatives to address their issue.
“We have filed complaints at the Division Forest Office to find the culprits involved in this illegal trade. We have also requested the authority to secure our trees,” Dhami told the Post.
In February this year, 15 sandalwood trees were stolen from the fields of Dakhakwadi in a single night. According to local residents, the stolen sandalwood trees were worth Rs 1 million market value. Currently, sandalwood is priced at Rs 7,000 per kilo in the market.
The last reported theft of sandalwood trees in Dakhakwadi was seven to eight years ago, say local residents. Since then, there had been no such incident until February. Incidents of sandalwood tree theft have become a regular occurrence now.
“We don’t know who the smugglers are since they’ve never been caught,” said Gir Bahadur Dhami, a resident of Dakhakwadi. “The smugglers made away with two of my sandalwood trees in February.”
With no means to stop the trees from being stolen, Dakhakwadi residents have started cutting down premature trees in order to sell them for whatever little profit they can make.
Sandalwood trees can be felled only after taking permission from the Division Forest Office in Pyuthan.
A few months ago, the Division Forest Office arrested three individuals on the charge of smuggling red sandalwoods from the district.
Deepak KC, assistant forest officer at the Division Forest Office in Pyuthan, said, “None of the individuals had received permission to cut down sandalwood trees in Pyuthan. However, 172.93 kilograms of illegal sandalwood have been seized from various parts of the district.”