Roster of experts available for interviews with journalists
KATHMANDU, Dec 15: The Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) is found to have misled the Prime Minister´s Office (PMO) by submitting a false report about deforestation in Tarai districts.
According to a latest report, a copy of which is safe with Republica, 4.39 million cubic feet of timber was sanctioned for exports from different community forests in 27 districts during the last fiscal year.
However, a previous report, which was submitted to the PMO by the MoFSC, says only 3.5 million timbers were sanctioned for export. The previous report includes statistics of only 16 districts.
"The MoFSC has clearly deceived the PMO," said a highly-placed source. "Even the latest report consists of deforestation data of 27 districts. Deforestation could be high in other districts." According to the source, there are instances of community forests cutting down trees and selling out timbers in connivance with district forest offices (DFOs), without mentioning them in any record books.
The MoFSC was instructed to investigate into complaints of deforestation in Tarai and inner-Tarai districts following mounting pressures from the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Means and the Nepal Foresters Association. The MoFSC had submitted its report to the PMO some five months ago.
As the report submitted to the PMO was unconvincing, a new committee was formed with MoFSC secretary Yuvaraj Bhushal as its head. The Bhushal committee´s report has proved the previous report as false. However, MoFSC spokesperson Yagya Dahal downplayed the issue by arguing that it was not possible to collect statistics from all districts at once due to technical reasons.
"As the process of keeping records of timber exports is always very lengthy, we failed to collect statistics of all districts at once," Dahal told Republica. "We were instructed to submit report in just 15 days. How could we accomplish this in such a short time?"
Gopal Kumar Shrestha, the newly-appointed director general of the Department of Forests (DoF), says even the latest report could be far removed from reality. "We are not satisfied with the new report, either," said Shrestha. "We are preparing to visit various districts to probe the matter further." he said he will himself lead the new team scheduled to visit various districts from December 19.
As per the instruction of the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Means, the MoFSC had banned trees-felling in 24 districts since July 16.
However, according to the chairman of the High-level Commission for Forestry Research Govinda Prasad Parajuli, who recently visited various districts, trees are still being felled down across the country. "No mechanism is functioning properly," said Parajuli. "Smuggling of trees continues unabated."
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