Forest Ministry seeks Rs 10m write-off for damaged timber

Sarlahi, January 18:

The Ministry of Finance has reportedly sought more documents on a request of the Ministry of Forest to write off over Rs 10 millions that the Sagarmatha Forest Development Project under the Forest Ministry owes to the government.

The write off was requested after the project could not sell over 69,000 cubic feet of timber after it got damaged on the ground of the Murtiya forest management office in Sarlahi.

The timber was cut down, under a cabinet decision, from between 1995 and 1997 from around 300 hectares of wild forest in Shankerpur VDC of the district.

A total of 113,327 cubic ft of timber was cut down during the period, and over 69,000 cu ft could not be sold on time and got damaged, according to the records shown by the accounts officer of the project Gangaram Bhandari.

The timber was evaluated several times at lower prices, but the evaluation committee finally cancelled the evaluation and recommended for writing off the amount after the timber got decayed, Bhandari said. According to him, the forest ministry had forwarded the file to the Finance Ministry.

“The Finance Ministry has not accepted the file,” said Kumar Ghimire, the accounts officer of the Forest Products Development Committee, Kathmandu. “It has asked for more documents.” Requesting anonymity, a ranger of the project said the government should try to find why the timber remained unsold and punish the culprit before writing off the amount.

The former vice-chairman of the Dhungrekhola VDC, Basant Bhattarai, said, “It is all because of the weakness at the decision makers’ level and the timber mafia that such a huge quantity of timber got damaged.”

Lack of the vision on the part of the government is responsible for cutting such a huge quantity of timber, said former technician of the project Shantaprasad Shrestha.

The then cabinet had made a decision to plant tree saplings in the deforested areas and deposit the income from the sell of the timber in government accounts.