Ministry plans night curfew in Tarai forests

KATHMANDU: Admitting negligence of its staffers at the Sunwal range post in Nawalparasi that led to rampant felling of trees in the Madhuwan forest there, the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) today said it will impose night time curfew in the core forest areas in the Tarai to protect the trees.

“It has been found that the range post staff underestimated the case and favoured locals in felling the trees,” said Yubraj Bhusal, Secretary, MoFSC.

Sixty-three sal trees and three Asna trees, which equals to 3,694 cubic

feet of wood, were cut down by locals, a report prepared by the ministry’s team formed to investigate the case revealed.

“According to the government rate, sal wood costs around Rs 250 per cubic feet. The trees, thus, cost about 10 lakhs,” said Dharma Kuinkel, Under Secretary at the ministry, who was a part of the field investigation team.

According to the report, it was a proposed community forest and the proposed community forest users’ group had sold trees to locals.

“Locals showed us the receipts of payments they had made to the committee members, but all 23 members of the users’ group are absconding,” added Kuinkel.

The proposed community forest has no legal status and the communities don’t have the right to cut the trees and use them for any purpose, but the government is still unaware of the number of forests that have been used as proposed community forests.

“In fact, the communities have declared the forest as proposed community forest on their own and the district forest officers were unaware of this,” mentioned Bhusal.

The report has admitted that the ministry and its local office were unable to make people aware of the legal status of the forest and the provisions for its use. The investigation team has proposed punishment for staffers at the Amrauth range post, Assistant Forest Officer Shyam Kumar Chaudhary at the Area forest office at Bardaghat, District Forest officer Hari Narayan Mandal and also for committee members of the users’ group of the proposed Madhuwan community forest.

Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation Deepak Bohara assured that the culprits would be punished as per the recommendations. “I will not allow any culprit to escape and the process has already been initiated,” said Bohara.

He added that the ministry is planning to impose night time curfew in the core forest areas of the Tarai region to protect the forests.

“The main problem is in the Tarai and most of the wood is being smuggled during the night; as such, we are holding consultations with ministries concerned to keep the area under curfew during night,” Bohara added.