Smugglers in Dadeldhura haphazardly fell trees on pretext of constructing roadSmugglers, in collusion with forest officials and local political leaders, have been smuggling timber from the Aalital area for a long time, locals say.
Hundreds of trees have been felled down on the pretext of constructing a ring road in the Chure forest area of Aalital Rural Municipality in Dadeldhura.
The incident came to light on August 22 when forest officials confiscated a large quantity of green sal logs on the road section that connects Godam bazaar in Aalital to Dola Village. The trees were felled down on the pretext of connecting Dola Village to the ring road, locals say.
On August 25, a team from the Finance, Development and Natural Resource Committee in Sudurpaschim Province had gone to inspect Rajani Community Forest and its vicinity. Purna Joshi, a provincial assembly member and also a member of the committee, said, “During inspection, we found that the road was dug with an objective to cut down trees. There’s no need for a road in that area where the trees were felled.”
In the last fiscal year, a budget of Rs 14.5 million was allocated to construct a six-kilometre road section to connect Dola Village to the ring road. Of the total budget, Ugratara Construction, the contractor company, had agreed to construct the road for Rs 7.7 million.
“Trees of Rajani Community Forest and the national forest adjacent to the community forest were felled haphazardly on the pretext of constructing the road,” said Ram Bahadur Kunwar, a local of Godam bazaar. “We had informed the Sub Division Office about the haphazard tree felling but the forest employees did not pay any heed.”
According to the Division Forest Office in Dadeldhura, forest officials also found sal logs hidden inside the houses of consumers four days ago.
“There are more sal logs concealed in the forest area,” said Hari Singh Bohara, a resident of Aalital.
Locals said they cannot openly talk about the smugglers and timber smuggling in the forest because of an incident in which an individual, who provided information to the media about timber smuggling, was burnt alive by smugglers a decade ago. A year ago, a journalist who exposed timber smuggling in Dadeldhura was also given death threats by smugglers.
“Smugglers, in collusion with forest officials and local political leaders, have been smuggling timber from the Aalital area for a long time. This is why we cannot openly talk about them,” said Bohara.
However, Santosh Bhatta, chief at the Aalital Sub Division Forest Office, claims he does not know about the tree felling incident in the forest.
“For the time being, the sub division office is focused on controlling smuggling of logs along the border area of Kailali and Dadeldhura,” Bhatta said. “The spokesperson at the Division Forest Office in Dadeldhura will provide additional information about the tree felling in Rajani Community Forest and its vicinity.”
Meanwhile, Bishnu Acharya, chief at the Dadeldhura Forest Office, said, “We found that a large number of trees were felled down in collusion with forest employees in Aalital. But we don’t know the exact number of felled trees. Forest officials are collecting details on the incident.”
According to Acharya, two individuals, including the chairman of the Rajani Community Forest, have been arrested to make inquiries about the incident on August 24.
In the meantime, the road construction work in Aalital continues despite the area receiving massive rainfalls just a month ago.
According to data from the Division Forest Office, out of the district’s total area of 153,800 hectares, about 75 percent is covered with forest.