CARE BLOG

Who is Responsible for Deforestation and Forest Degradation In Nepal?

10/5/10

Nepal is a
small mountainous country surrounded by China to the north and India to the
south, east and west with total land area of 147,181 km2. The forest
and shrub land together cover about 5.83 million ha which is 39.6% of the total
land of the country (GoV/N, 1999). The
country is rich in biodiversity because of its altitudinal and climatic
variations. The forest resource is one of the imperative sources of income that
is directly correlated with livelihood systems of the locals.
About 25.5% of the total population is below poverty line (government information,
2010) where 70% is estimated to be forest dependent
.

Forest
resources of Nepal are managed under different management model. Among them, Community
forestry management is one of the renowned participatory schemes. About
15,000 Community Forest
User Groups (CFUGs) are legally functioning and managing 1.3 million ha (22 %
of the National Forest area) forest across the country. The harmony
among different ethnic groups, indigenous people and other forest dependent
communities during the process and functions of the community forest management
are enthusiastic and impressive. Because of the effective and efficient
management model, community forestry has become a popular model of community
development not only in Nepal but also to the rest of the world. However,
government is still reluctant to handover forest, in which the daily livelihood,
to community. The
data shows that more than 78% of the national forest area is still
under government supervision that is severely affected by deforestation and degradation.

Nepal is under the
political transition and rules and regulations of the forestry sector at the
field level have seemed ineffective. Reports generated by media, parliamentary
committee on natural resources and means and civil society organizations have
indicated that the mismanagement and misguidance of Ministry of Forest and Soil
Conservation (MoFS) is the main cause of deforestation and forest degradation.
Historical evidences show that Nepal's forest has always been suffered during
the political transition. The current transitional state and the breakdown of the
rule of law have allowed a nationwide network of timber mafia to be flourished.

Deforestation and illegal
harvesting of the timber is much more serious problem in Nepal.
Nearly
30 years after the state began to hand over the forest to local communities for
protection, management and utilization, the community forestry appears to be a victim
of its own success. The forests that communities nourished have become so
valuable that some corrupted community leaders, political parties' leaders and
government officials have been attracted by the timber mafias to plunder
woodland. The evidences have shown that even MoFS has a good link with timber mafias and
encouraging government officials for illegal chopping up and trading of timber .
A study conducted by parliamentary committee on natural resources and means estimated
that 10 million cubic feet of timber have been illegally cut down and smuggled from
forest of Terai and Inner Terai, with collecting black money between the range
of 16,000 to 20,000 million Nepali currencies during the fiscal year 2066/067.
The parliament committee also charged to the Forest Minister of his involvement in
smuggling large quantity of timber being a hidden partner of the timber mafias.

. However,
there is no available actual data of reducing the forest areas, it is clear fact
that forest in Nepal is being disappeared at the alarming rate. It is estimated
that more than 1200,000 ha of forest area with the 2% deforestation rate in
government managed forests have disappeared during the period of last three
years and millions of cubic feet of timber have been smuggled from the forest.
The major causes of depletion and deforestation of forest are unethical governance
system of the forestry sector and institutionalization of corruption. Result is
that illegal logging and trading of the valuable timber of the plain area has
occurred tremendously. These are the big challenges to the community to
safeguarding of forest.

It shows that
deforestation and forest disappearance have been occurring tremendously in
government managed forests. Unfortunately, the MoFS and its allies are blaming
community people for deforestation and depletion of forest ignoring the
contributions of communities in restoring forest in the country.

Different
studies, reports and media have indicated that ministry is one of the key
players of deforestation and forest depletion in the country. People are saying
that ministers and high level bureaucrats have good relation to timber mafias
and poachers. He has been using this network to clear the forest and earn
illegal money. The minister of Forest and soil conservation seems to think his
job is not to save forest but raze them. Trees are being felled by logging
groups that enjoy political patronage and protection from ministers. on the other
hand, in some cases, CFUGs have been colluding with timber poachers and corrupted
local officials to harvest trees.

It is well
known that major cause of depletion and deforestation of forest is unethical
government system of forestry sector, which has also institutionalized the
corruption, has become a big challenge for minimizing and stopping the
deforestation rate. Result is that
illegal cutting and trading of the valuable timber of the plain area has
occurred tremendously. To hide all these evidences, unfortunately the
government is blaming communities for deforestation and depletion of forest
area and trying to downsize the community power through amendment of existing forest
policy and law.

Therefore,
now it is very critical situation on the forestry sector. Every day forest area
is being depleted and destroyed for smuggling valuable timbers. It is time to
need to work together to protect our forest from smugglers and timber mafias.
Therefore, come together and join hands with community people to save forest
nationwide.

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