Valuable herbs are being smuggled out of the Himalayan region through Gorkha and into Tibet. Locals say Chinese and Tibetan contractors take yarchagumba, jatamassi, panch aunle, shilajit and other herbs openly across the border. Since there is no checkpoint or any mobile security patrols, smugglers have unrestricted access says Rajma Din Miya, former Chairman of Aruchanaute VDC. Nepali herbs are sold mostly for use in traditional Chinese medicines.
The Nepali government has prohibited the collection of all herbs except yarchagumba, known as 'Himalayan viagra'. But in the seven years since the local administration left the border areas after Maoists made several attacks against them, unscrupulous traders from either side of the border are turning a tidy profit.
Tibetans who are the middlemen get between Rs 90,000 - 100,000 for every kg of yarchagumba but locals receive only around Rs 20,000 per kg of this unique insect-fungus. "The locals are badly cheated in the deal," says Hari Bahadur Ghale, former vice-chairman of Gorkha DDC. "The Chinese contractors are minting money and we lose out even though the herbs grow here and locals source them for the buyers." In the past, Raxaul was the main exit point for contraband herbs. Now Tibet absorbs everything. "There are no checkpoints along the northern border because of Maoist activity and smugglers have a field day," says Dhruba Bhattarai of the Forest Department.