SURKHET, Nov 24: About a month ago, locals of Barahatal Rural Municipality-4 in Surkhet had informed concerned stakeholders about rampant deforestation and timber smuggling in forest areas. Pagma Area Forest Office and Bheri Divisional Forest Office among other offices were informed about the misdeeds. Yet, none of the offices deployed their teams to investigate.
Locals then informed the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). Only then, forest officials were finally compelled to reach Bheri River's bank at Taranga and confiscated 350 logs of sal trees. However, the forest officials did not bother to dig further and returned without trying to find the source of the timber smuggling.
Two locals – Prem Bahadur Thapa and Dhan Bahadur Rawat – were arrested from the site.
According to the locals, authorities are reluctant to initiate investigation as they have colluded with contractors and smugglers in the illegal trade.
“Trees worth millions of rupees have been cut down and smuggled. Contractors, officials of the forest office and some local community forests have colluded in the act,” said a local.
According to the source, over 80 sal trees from the national forest areas have been chopped off taking advantage of Dashain and Tihar festivals.
Although Barahatal sub-division forest office is nearby the national forest areas, they simply turn a blind eye to smugglers cutting down trees.
The forest office did not reach the incident site in many cases even when the locals informed them. This has led to deep suspicions regarding their collusion.
On the other hand, chief of Bheri Divisional Forest Office Ajit Kumar Karna said they are investigating the cases of tree smuggling.
“I have been recently transferred here and do not know much. But we have formed a committee to investigate the issue.”