link Dhansar Bridge with Jungle-shaiya. The trees were cut down without taking due permission from the Department of Forest, according to Dirgha Narayan Koirala, head of the District Forest Office.
“I have already directed that the illegal activity be immediately stopped until an official order to cut down trees is issued,” Koirala said.
The proposed 11-km road, which will facilitate residents of Simri, Pashupati Tole and Jungle-shaiya, who have built houses on encroached forest land, will pass through a dense jungle. This area, locals said, is rife with “timber smugglers, who frequently engage in illegal activities”. These locals suspect the road will “facilitate these smugglers to rapidly transport lumbers from the forest”.
Yet the illegal cutting down of trees has not stopped. And Forest Office officials who had reached the site to stop illegal flattening of the forest land received threats from locals mobilised to deforest the area.
The support provided by Prabhu Sah, a lawmaker, former minister and senior Maoist leader, and provincial assembly member Kundan Prasad Kushwaha has emboldened locals engaged in illegal cutting down of trees, locals said. Kushwaha acknowledged that it was against the law to cut down trees prior to getting the Forest Department’s permission. “But we are rushing because we want to see movement of buses on the route,” he said, adding, “We have already initiated the process of getting Forest Department’s green signal. Prabhu Sah is currently in Kathmandu to get the permission.”
He also informed that he and Sah did not put undue pressure on the Road Office of Chandranigahpur to open the track. “The track opening work had started based on verbal agreement reached between Sah and chiefs of Road Division, Forest Office and Irrigation Office,” said Kushwaha, adding, “The track opening work had actually started over two decades ago. We now want to complete this task and start vehicular movement on the route.”
Sah could not be contacted.
Shyam Narayan Mishra, officiating chief of Road Office Chandranigahpur, acknowledged his office was opening the track of the 11-km road without getting Forest Department’s permission. “But we are only opening the track for now. We are not black-topping it and neither do we have budget to black top the road segment,” he said.
While politicians are rushing to build the road, trees that have been cut down have started disappearing. So far, over two dozen of 471 trees have vanished and more trees are being cut down into logs by locals and taken away in bicycles and other modes of transportation. Each of these trees fetch up to Rs100,000.