Kathmandu, June 19
A few months ago, the government, researchers, conservationists, and stakeholders expressed their happiness as it was recorded that forests covered up to 44.74 percent of total land of the country.
However, a large number of trees die and decay in the forests, while over eighty per cent of the country’s timber is imported from other countries.
According to Federation of Forest Based Industry and Trade Nepal, at least 29,344,422 cubic feet of timber was imported from Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma, Vietnam, New Zealand, Denmark, Africa and Australia in the previous fiscal at the cost of Rs 88 billion.
At the same time, at least 37,654,295 cubic feet of timber from the country’s forest decayed and was wasted owing to strict regulations against extracting dead trees. In July and August in 2014 after last year’s devastating earthquakes, about 130 million cubic feet of timber was imported.
General Secretary of FenFIT Bhupendra Chaulagain said, “While billions of cubic feet of timber are wasted in our forest, we import millions of cubic feet of timber from other countries. Leaders and policy makers must realise that these trees need to be harvested and utilised on time, and letting them waste helps no one.”
The existing provision prioritises imported timber, as there are no customs charge on timber, despite entrepreneurs recommending the government to levy at least a 5 per cent tax.
Former president of FenFIT Uddav Mainali said wood warehouses in Nepal have been compelled to rely on imported timber for the last few years.
“It is too hard, and too expensive to buy timber from Nepali forests,” he said, adding, “Most warehouses have at least 80 per cent of their stock imported.” Mainali added that Nepali saal timber cost around Rs 5,800 per cubic feet, whereas Malaysian saal costs around Rs 4200 cubic feet, and is easily accessible.
Former director of the Department of Forest Rajan Pokharel said he was dissatisfied with the tightened provision of timber collection and extraction of dead trees in the country. “The declaration of the Chure range as a conservation area hit timber production hard, as the area produces the most timber.
Last year’s decision to tighten the trade process through community forests user groups has added complexity and made trade even more difficult,” he said.
The Chure range was declared a conservation area through a cabinet decision on June 16, 2014.
Meanwhile, Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Agni Sapkota has expressed his commitment to stop import of timber from abroad. “I will do my best to reduce timber import by promoting scientific forest management program” he said.
Experts and technicians have calculated that if the scientific forest management program model is applied and timber extracted without hampering environment, around 120 to 150 million cubic feet timber can be produced in Nepal itself.
Nepal’s annual timber demand is around 50 million cubic feet, while only 200,000 to 300,000 cubic feet of timber is produced in the country every year.
A version of this article appears in print on June 20, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.