ALL PICS: SAM COWAN
The timber feeds the construction boom across the border, a result of rising income and investment in China. But Tibet is too dry for trees, so the demand for timber is being met by the supply of pine forests on the Nepal side in Humla, where villagers face a chronic food shortage.
The problem is that trees in these high montane woodlands take much longer to grow back because of the altitude. Forests cleared during the Khampa war of the 1960s still haven't regenerated.
The Nepalis sell timber in Shera to Chinese middlemen who bargain hard. They bring back mainly food, clothes and also cheap Chinese beer and alcohol. The yak trains follow the new road, that Humla's DDC tried to build, from the border settlement of Hilsa to the district capital in Simkot. But Kathmandu was never really interested, and money ran out. Landslides and avalanches have taken out whole sections of the road.
The Humla highway, when linked to the Chinese road from Taklakot, was supposed to make it easier for essential items like food, fuel and building material to be brought in more cheaply to Nepal's most remote district. But given the pace at which the forests here are being destroyed, it may be just as well that the road was never finished because instead of yak-loads of timber, there would be truckloads going across.
Sam Cowan in Humla