Felling, smuggling of trees on the rise in Sunsari forest

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DHARAN, APR 10 – Despite the rampant felling and smuggling of sal trees (Shorea Robusta) at Paanwari Community Forest (PCF) in Dharan-23, Sunsari in the past two months by going against regulations, members of the Paanwari Community Forest Users’ Committee and forest officials have mysteriously held their silence over the issue. Further confounding the matter, they have yet to take any preventive measures to check such illegal activities.

What this has only done is fuel the suspicion of locals that the trees are being

smuggled overnight to Dharan and Itahari by the smugglers working in collusion with the members of the  forest users’ committee and forest officials.

Moreover, as the illegally felled trees were found to have been sawed off inside the community forest itself and smuggled, inaction on the part of concerned authorities has raised suspicion of foul play, locals said.

“The smugglers might just have smuggled much more trees from Saraswati CommunityForest in Itahari and the forests east from the fire line of Paanwari Community Forest   than those that we are aware of as we have not gone deeper into the forest,” said Hari Rai, former secretary of PCF. Locals claim that the reason they have not been able to check the rise in felling and smuggling of sal trees is that smugglers have been conducting their operation very secretively in a wide area.

While Hasta Bahadur Shrestha, former member of the forest users’ committee, accused some forest officials and members of the forest users’ committee behind the rampant felling and smuggling of sal trees, chairperson Shila Rai of Paanwari

forest users’ committee stated that overnight hauling of timber was not possible without assistance from forest officials.

Stating that she had forwarded a proposal to the District Forest Office to conduct nightly patrols in the forest area, Rai alleged that the forest users’ committee had turned a deaf ear to it.