CIAA unearths massive deforestation in Far-West
22 forest officials, users' groups, local administrators, contractors under scanner
200,000 cubic feet of timber supplied from Dadeldhura district alone
District Forest Officers and Regional Forest Directors under scanner
15-km motorable road constructed inside forest to smuggle timber
KATHMANDU, FEB 07 - A report prepared by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) after preliminary investigations has concluded that over 200,000 cubic feet of wood worth Rs 60 million was cut in Dadeldhura district. As per the current market price in the Capital, a cubic feet of timber costs around Rs 4000.
The report, which was recently submitted to the Acting CIAA Chief Bhagwati Kumar Kafle, says hundreds of trees in community and national forests were felled in the far-western region in collusion with local political leaders, forest user groups, contractors and forest officials. Deforestation was rampant after the government lifted an 11-month ban on commercial tree felling and selling of forest products in May 2011.
In the wake of massive deforestation during the term of former Forest Minister Deepak Bohara in 2009 and 2010, the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation had banned cutting, selling and exporting trees and other forest products in 14 Tarai and inner-Tarai districts of the country.
The report says trees in five community forests--Baijanath, Durga Bhawani, Salleri Bhairabnath, Jhilmila and Siddhanath--in the Chure region were felled rampantly.
"Saw mills are in operation in some community forests, while a 15-km stretch of road has been constructed to supply wood," CIAA Joint Secretary Krishna Dhungana, who arrived in Kathmandu after a 19-day stay in the far-western region, said. The CIAA investigation team found some 25 trucks loaded with timber inside forests in Dadeldhura and Kanchanpur.
"The illegal trade is not possible without the involvement of the local community users' group, contractors, forest officials, local administrators and representatives of political parties," Dhungana said.
Forest officials have said the deforestation could invite serious environmental and ecological problems in the region. "The impact of deforestation on the surrounding environment will be unimaginable," a senior official at the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, who accompanied the CIAA probe team, said. Hundreds of sal (shorea robusta), saj (Terminalia tomentosa) and pine trees were found to have been felled in the district.
The CIAA team said the situation is no different in forests of other districts in the region such as Kailali, Kanchanpur and Doti.
The CIAA has kept 22 individuals, including representatives of the community forest users' groups, contractors, forest officials and local administrators, under scanner. "We are still investigating and the number may go up," said one of the investigators.
CIAA officials said they are preparing to interrogate the individuals, including the Chief District Forest Officer, for allowing construction of the illegal road in the forest.
The anti-graft body has also questioned the role of Regional Forest Directors, who have been assigned to monitor the forests and control deforestation. "Regional directors' roles will also be investigated," Dhungana said.
Posted on: 2012-02-07 01:00