Fuel crisis spurs deforestation

Rautahat, December 9

Rampant deforestation has been reported in the Tarai of late as regular monitoring and patrolling in the forest areas have come to a halt for want of fuel.

As the agitation of the United Democratic Madhesi Front continues, a large number of trees are being felled and smuggled from the forests in the northern parts of Bara, Rautahat and Sarlahi.

According to stakeholders, deforestation has increased in the name of firewood collection due to shortage of cooking gas.

The northern parts of Rautahat, Bara and Sarlahi adjoining the Chure range have dense forests, but are being cleared fast. “While lack of regular monitoring has led to rampant deforestation, the land mafia has become active in grabbing forest land,” the stakeholders said.

Rautahat Chief Forest Officer Shribhagawan Gupta admitted that regular monitoring of forest areas had been halted. “What can we do as we don’t have fuel needed for monitoring?” he said, adding that his office was investigating possible involvement of forest staffers in the ongoing deforestation.

Retired forester Shashinath Jha rued the increased deforestation. “Deforestation existed during the conflict time as well, but not to this extent,” he said, accusing the concerned authorities of turning a blind eye to the illegal activity. “If logging continues at this pace, it won’t be long before there is no forest left,” he warned.

There are 42 community forests and three partnership forests in Rautahat spread over 29,400 hectare area. Similarly, Bara has four partnership forests and 40 community forests, with the total forest area spread over 47,182 hectare.

In Sarlahi, however, a large part of the forest has already been cleared. The rampant deforestation has also posed the risk of landslide and soil erosion in the Chure range.