TCN: Up to a creek without a paddle

Shashi Dhungel

Kathmandu, April 28:

The Timber Corporation of Nepal (TCN), the state-owned public enterprise, traditionally in charge of collection and sale of timber in the country, is once again looking down the barrel.

TCN, which depends on the sale of timber, is now facing a hard time as the quantity of timber it can collect and sell is decreasing every year, lamented Shiva Bahadur Basnet, division chief at TCN. TCN was nearly closed in 2001, owing to heavy losses. For smooth operation, TCN needs to sell about 800,000 cubic feet of timber every year, but collection has been only 455,000 cubic feet last year. This year, it has gone down to only 277,000 cubic feet till the end of March. TCN contributes Rs 250 per cubic feet of timber as revenue to the government. Last year, it contributed around Rs 145.5 million to the national treasury. The alarming drop in sale this year means it will contribute lesser amount of revenue to the government as well.

Following the promulgation of Forest Act 1992 and Forest Rules 1994, TCN was forced to share its pie equally with the Department of Forest (DoF). That debilitating blow was followed by another crippling development for TCN when the Community Forestry Policy 1989 handed over more than 200,000 hectors of forest land to communities for management. Cut off from such profitable sources of earning, the once-mighty company has now been severely hurt by continuing disturbances across the country that have not only severely hampered its distribution network but collection drive for timber as well. TCN currently operates in 33 districts with six branch offices and four logging camps and has 433 employees. It has already laid off almost 50 per cent of its employees in 2001 through a voluntary retirement scheme.

Though various committees have been formed from time to time to ameliorate TCN’s plight, it has been victim of unseemly politicking. It has also suffered due to the lack of a clear government policy regarding the collection and sale of timber. “Lack of a clear policy regarding the collection of timber and limited access to resources due to prevailing insecurity have resulted in the current poor state of the corporation,” said Basnet. The equal participation of DoF, once the holding authority for monitoring and management of timber in the country, in the procurement and sale of timber, has proved to be TCN’s bane. Officials at TCN are of the view that there must be two separate organisations— one for sale of timber and the other for monitoring of forests. “The DoF should monitor and TCN should be given sole authority for collection and sale of timber. This would help maintain transparency in transaction as well as boost efficiency,” said Kalu Datta Pant, chief, at monitoring division of TCN.