Slash and grab in Murtiya as govt looks on

Sarlahi, May 15:

Timber smugglers and land encroachers have felled thousands of trees planted in Murtiya and encroached upon 1,800 hectares of land.

The Sagarnath Forest Project (SFP) office had planted Sisau, Masala and Tik trees in 2,600 hectares.

Landless people have encroached upon these areas. District forest officer (DFO) Shekhar Kumar Yadav says deforestation is rampant in Murtiya. Police and administration should act now to prevent further deforestation, he says.

According to Sajanlal Mahato of Ghurkauli VDC 7, people living near Murtiya began felling trees when poll fever was at its peak. Some influential persons of the village are selling and purchasing the forest land, says Mahato. A bigha of deforested land fetches Rs 20,000.

According to secretary of the Federation of Community Forest Users’ Group (FCFUG) Uttar Kumar Mainali, “People can be seen cultivating maize and vegetable crops around the SFP area.”

FCFUG president Sitaram Pokhrel says the deforestation occurred due to carelessness of SFP employees. Awareness should be raised to discourage deforestation, he says, adding that the government should form a committee to put an end to deforestation and encroachment of the forest land.

According to chief of the SFP Arun Kumar Jaisawal, “The government is to blame for deforestation because it did not mobilise security personnel to stop deforestation and land encroachment. SFP employees are not behind deforestation and land encroachment.”