SARLAHI: Deforestation is rampant in Murtiya tree plantation area under the Sagarnath Forest Development Project. Trees of several species spread over some 1,500 hectares of 2,500 hectares of the forest area, are being cleared rapidly. Only a few trees remain in the forest that was spread over Murtiya and Ghurkauli area.
Shekhar Kumar Yadav, District Forest Officer, said the forest was being cleared in Murtiya area. The officer lamented that Sagarnath Forest Development Project cannot protect the rest of the trees and said, "We are seeking help from the administration to control the deforestation."
Meanwhile, Superintendent of Police Shyam Bahadur Khatri said the police had handed over 29 persons involved in deforestation to the district forest office. He added, "We handed over the logs loaded in nine carts to the project authorities." The detainees have been identified as Lab Hamal of Shankarpur VDC, Binod Yadav of Jamuniya VDC, Pradip Shah of Barahathawa VDC, and Sadur Alam of Pidari. One of the detainees Lab Hamal claimed that the police arrested them while they were cutting the stumps of the trees that the smugglers had left. Hamal added that the smuggled logs were found everywhere in Ghurkauli VDC.
Sajanlal Mahato, a local of Ghurkauli, claimed that the cleared forest land was being seized by the influential people. He added, "They are selling and buying the land after clearing the forest." However, secretary of Federation of Community Forest Users' Committee district chapter, Uttam Kumar Mainali said they had been using the land for cultivation. Chairman of the committee, Sitaram Pokharel said deforestation should be stopped at the earliest.