Humla, January 16
The Himalayan districts of the far and mid-west in the northern frontiers, often considered home to a wide variety of herbs and rare vegetation, will soon to lose this natural endowment, thanks to the apathy of the concerned authorities in curbing the rampant smuggling of herbs and timber.
Every year, a huge amount of herbs and timber from the forests of Humla, Mugu, Dolpa and Bajura are smuggled to China.
Though Hilsa is the only government-authorised entry point in the northern frontier, herbs are being smuggled openly from Tanke, Limi, Chunwakhola, Maspur and Khagalgaun of Humla as well as Nakchelagna of Mugu and Lhamhe Changra and Khungkhola Lekh of Dolpa.
Beasts of burden are being used to smuggle these prized herbs.
Surprisingly, the concerned authorities have turned a blind eye to this illegal activity.
Journalist Nawaraj Mahatara of Humla confirmed the rampant illegal trade inherbs from the district. “Though the government hasn’t permitted any trade of valuable herbs from here except from one entry point, smuggling of herbs and selected timber from as many as nine entry points is rife,” he said.
Just a month ago, Mugu Forest Office with the help of police had acted on a tip-off and arrested a few smugglers along with 729 kg of Kutki while the herb was being smuggled to Tibet. Kutki is one of the rare and endangered herbs. “The smugglers had hidden the herb in monasteries, and private houses,” said district forest officer Prem Shankar Chaudhary of Mugu.
According to information provided by a trader who sought anonymity, at least 250 quintal banned and other herbs have been siphoned off to Tibet in the past two months alone from Humla, Mugu and Dolpa. Among the smuggled herbs are Jatamasi, Kutki, Panchaule and Banlasun.
The locals expressed concern about the depletion of rare herbs from the local forests. “In fact, smuggling has increased after the police moved from the frontier to district headquarters Simikot,” said local Migyur Lama of Muchu-7, Tumkot.
“It was the mid of December, hundreds of herbs collected from the forests here without necessary permission were sent to China from the Hilsa entry point,” said Jyamju Lama, a hotel entrepreneurs based in Muchu Pul, Humla.
On his part, District Forest Officer Shyam Kumar Chaudhary of Humla conceded that smuggling of herbs was rampant in the district. “It’s true that smuggling of herbs and selected types of timber is rising as the forest staff can’t go to the forests in the upper belt given the excessive cold,” he said, adding that the forest office had permitted everyone to collect and export herbs from the forests in the area. “The cold is one factor, while language and security are other major hurdles in curbing the smuggling in that area,” said DSP Trilok Bahadur Chanda, police chief of Humla.
In Dolpa too, smuggling of herbs worth millions of rupees has been reported this year. According to local Ugrandorje Tamang, herbs worth Rs 150 to 200 million have been exported so far since March/April of 2015.
District Forest Officer Ram Bichari, however, denied the reports of smuggling and refused to comment.
Meanwhile, some of the locals suspect a nexus between traders and representatives of local political parties.
“Besides the lack of staff, difficult geographical terrain and excessive cold, smuggling is rampant due to the nexus between local traders and political leaders,” said Bijaya Thapa, chief engineer at Hilsa-Simkot Road Project.
A version of this article appears in print on January 17, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.