KATHMANDU, JANUARY 14

Nepal Police destroyed cannabis and opium plants cultivated in a large swathe of land across the country in the fiscal year 2019-20, according to an annual report recently released by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

According to the report, cannabis plants being cultivated illegally in areas spanning over 342 bigha land were destroyed in coordination with other governmental agencies, local clubs and organisations during the period.

Similarly, cops got rid of opium plants cultivated in over 33 bigha land.

Police have taken initiatives to destroy cannabis and opium plants before they can be harvested. However, preventing cultivation has been a challenge for the law enforcement agency.

Opium is the dried latex obtained from the opium poppy which contains morphine, an alkaloid. It is also used to produce heroin.

An official at the Narcotic Control Bureau said high opium price was the main reason for increased cultivation of the plant. Its cultivation is rampant in various parts of the Tarai and the central region, particularly in Makawanpur, Rautahat, Bara, Parsa, among other districts, thereby posing a grave threat to security and leading to increased smuggling of the contraband.

Opium is sold at over Rs 50,000 per kilogram in the illegal market of Nepal, but its price depends on the negotiations between buyers and sellers.

According to NCB, many farmers, especially in Makawanpur, Udayapur, Baglung, Salyan, Rukum and Dhading districts, cultivate opium in large swathes of land with technical assistance from experts. Geographical remoteness and economic backwardness of the rural people are major factors behind illicit cultivation of opium and marijuana, the NCB said.

“Most villagers living in extreme poverty without any alternative source of livelihood have been attracted to opium cultivation, resulting in massive decline in the cultivation of traditional crops,” NCB said.

Nepal Police said it had seized around 210 kilograms of opium and 5,000 kilograms of cannabis in the past three years.