Surge in opium cultivation posing threat to security

Kathmandu, March 4

Opium cultivation is increasing in Nepal at an unprecedented rate, posing a grave threat to security.

According to an annual report of 2016 published by the Narcotics Control, many farmers, especially in Makawanpur, Udayapur, Baglung, Salyan, Rukum and Dhading districts have been cultivating opium in large swathes of land with technical assistance from experts.

Locals along the Indo-Nepal border report that many years ago, people in the Indian state of Bihar used to cultivate opium in the local farms, saying they were growing sunflowers. This trend gradually made its way across the border into Nepal.

“The NCB has taken initiatives to destroy opium poppy before its harvest. However, it is a Herculean task for the drug law enforcement agency to prevent cultivation,” read the report. According to the NCB, geographical remoteness and economic backwardness of the rural people are major factors in illicit cultivation of opium and marijuana.

“Due to lack of proper observation of security agencies in remote areas, opium cultivation has become widespread. Most villagers living in extreme poverty without any alternative livelihood sources have been attracted to opium cultivation, resulting in massive decline in the cultivation of traditional crops,” said DSP Apil Bohara.

Nepal Police along with NCB destroyed the 60 hectares of illicit opium cultivation in Makawanpur, Jhapa, Parsa, Bara, Rukum, Salyan and Jajarkot districts in 2016 compared to 40 hectares in the preceding year. Increasing rate of opium cultivation will be a big blow to the law enforcement agencies, he said. Data shows that Nepal is not a good market for opium consumption.

However, sharp increase in the volume of the regional trade of the drug in the recent years depicts a big threat of increasing narco-terrorism activities since illegal trafficking and consumption of opium has been climbing in the past few years in Nepal.

“If we analyse the crime statistics of Nepal Police, we see that crimes pertaining to the use and trafficking of narcotic drugs are escalating and many people are involved in trafficking narcotics making Nepal a reliable transit for smuggling although Nepal Police and other concerned stakeholders are doing their best to prevent it,” said DSP Bohara.

Over 35 per cent of nearly 17,000 jailbirds doing time in prisons across the country were prosecuted under drug crimes.

Opium sells at more than Rs 50,000 per kg in illegal market of Nepal, but the price depends on buyers and sellers.

Until a few years ago, police had ruled out production of the drug in Nepal. Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy which contains morphine, an alkaloid, which is also used to produce heroin.