India allowed to take 173,072 kg red sandalwood home

Kathmandu, January 16

The government has decided to allow India to take home 173,072 kilogram red sandalwood from Nepal within 90 days. The precious wood was confiscated by Nepal Police while being smuggled to China from India via Nepal, over a period of one decade.

Speaking at a press conference organised in Singha Durbar to disclose the decisions of the January 13 Council of Ministers, Minister of Communications and Information Gokul Prasad Baskota said red sandalwood would be handed over to the concerned Indian authority through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as per Article VII of the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Control Act-2016.

Both Nepal and India are parties to the CITES, which has stipulated a provision of returning confiscated contraband to the country of origin.

“We have granted permission for India to take home the red sandalwood within 90 days.

The transportation cost for returning the precious wood will be borne by India,” said the minister. Red sandalwood is an aromatic tropical hardwood tree which is endemic to southern India. This species does not naturally grow in Nepal. The wood was confiscated from racketeers while being smuggled to China from India via Nepal.

The Ministry of Forests and Environment was having a hard time to manage the stash of red sandalwood seized from smugglers. At least four to five armed police personnel have been deployed to guard the red sandalwood on the premises of the Department of Forest in Babar Mahal. Earlier, government authorities had said they were ready to hand over the contraband to India, the country of origin, after necessary verification, in accordance with existing national and international laws.

The Cabinet decided to accept loan assistance of approximately Rs 12.76 billion to be provided by European Investment Bank for upgradation and extension of electricity grid and approve the Nepal-China mutual legal assistance treaty on criminal offence.

Minister Baskota said the government had also decided to increase the remuneration of local staffers working in Nepali missions abroad, acquire land for expansion and upgradation of Tamagadhi-Simraungadh road section in Birgunj, allow the Hetauda-Dhalkebar-Duhabi 400 kV Transmission Line Project to use 80.66 hectares of national forest area and formulate National Forensic Lab Operation Bill.

In yet another decision, the government will form a five-member talks team headed by the chief of Monitoring and Evaluation Division at the Ministry of Forests and Environment to negotiate with the World Bank regarding the payment to be received by Nepal with respect to carbon trade.