A huge number of trees are being illegally felled and sold under the patronage of local authorities in the Tarai. Rampant felling is underway in districts such as Kailali, Bardiya, Banke, Dang, Sarlahi, Bara and Rautahat with the collusion of the District Forest Offices (DFOs), forest officials and community forestry user groups.
These officials have appropriated huge sums by auctioning timber to contractors at a rate lower than the government's. Minister for Forests and Soil Conservation Deepak Bohara has also been found to be involved with the DFOs in the timber racket. Journalists, activists of political parties and local goons have also earned hefty sums through commissions, while government revenue has suffered.
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal demanded clarification from Bohara and the Director General of the Department of Forests, Madhav Acharya, for not taking action against the accused DFOs.
In Amlekhganj and Ratanpuri, 150,000 cubic feet of timber has already been logged from a dozen community forests though permission was only given for 100,000 cubic feet. The market rate is Rs 800 to Rs 1000 per cubic foot, but here timber is being sold from between Rs 350 to Rs 500. The extra money is divided among the DFOs, forest officials and forest user group officials Contracts are also given without notifying the market. Sources claim that DFO Mohan Koirala has distributed Rs 500,000 to local and national papers so they don't report on the issue. Koirala has shrugged off the accusations, saying government cannot intervene in the work of community forest groups.
In Bardiya, more than six trucks of Acacia trees have been logged. Assistant Conservation Officer of Bardiya National Park, Ramesh Kumar Thapa, says over 1,800 such Acacia trees have been intercepted.
Wide-scale logging is also taking place in Kailali in the name of distributing timber to freed Kamaiyas. More than 150,000 cubic feet of wood is to be logged for this purpose. Over 800 hectors of forest will be cleared for Kamaiya settlements this year.