POKHARA, Oct 31: A huge cache of Satuwa ( Paris Polyphylla), a valuable herb produced in the Annapurna area, has been smuggled by an unidentified group.
Yuvraj Kunwar, chairperson of Annapurna Rural Municipality, informed Republica that around 32 quintals of the herb was stolen some two weeks ago. However, the incident came to light just a few days ago, due to the failure of the local unit to inform the responsible authorities on time. According to Kunwar, some shepherds had recovered unclaimed Satuwa wrapped up in sacks and hidden in a forest.They confiscated the herb in the day but when they returned to the forest in the evening, an unidentified group had already taken it away. The forest where the herb was found lies on the border of Myagdi and Kaski. "Shepherds had recovered 32 sacks of Satuwa. But when they returned to the jungle in the evening, they couldn't find it," said Kunwar. The cost of the smuggled Satuwa is estimated to be around Rs 2o million.
Kunwar claims that the villagers informed the rural municipality about the recovered herb only later. This is the reason why they could not begin an investigation on time and book the culprits. "The Annapurna region is rich in herbs like Satuwa and Paanch Aunle. So, smuggling of these herbs is rampant here," said Kunwar.
Not just herbs, even the wild animals here are not safe. "Though the cases of smuggling and poaching have declined since the formation of the local government, they are still common in some parts ," said Kunwar, adding, "But sadly, this is the first time when such a large amount of Satuwa was smuggled at a time."
Locals have stressed that Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) which has been entrusted with the responsibility of conserving the area should be more active. Smuggling and poaching is very common here despite the fact that there are check posts of ACAP at arious places.
Satuwa and Paanch Aunle are rare species of herbs which are found only in limited parts of the world. Currently, the market price of Satuwa is Rs 5,000 per kg. Rishi Baral, information officer of ACAP, stated that no official information has been received yet about the Satuwa smuggled from Annapurna area.
He says even the rural municipality has not officially informed the project about the smuggling. "We just received the news from the rural municipality chief. We could have done something to find those involved in the smuggling only if we were informed on time," said Baral.
Until a few years ago, villagers used to take Satuwa as grass but they started prioritizing it after learning about its importance and properties. "At least 4-5 cases of smuggling and poaching are registered every year," said Baral. Satuwa is widely available in all parts of Annapurna area except for Lomanthang. It is believed to be effective in curing various kinds of illnesses. Apart from its medicinal value, Satuwa is also known as a ' hangover remedy' for drunkards.