Illegal logging endangers rhododendron forest

- DIPENDRA SHAKYA, SANKHUWASABHA

May 3, 2014-

The Teenjure-Milke-Jaljale (TMJ) area, also known as the country’s Rhododendron Capital, is gradually losing its glory due to rampant deforestation.

Though declared a rhododendron conservation area in 1998, the area is gradually being cleared by locals for timber and firewood. According to local stakeholders, around two to five thousand trees are cut down annually, though there are no official records about the deforestation in the area.

The area, spread across some areas of Sankhuawasabha, Tehrathum and Taplejung districts, covering an area of 558 square kilometres. “Forests in the area that were covered with Rhododendron trees a couple of years ago have become barren now,” said Bharat Bhandari of Khandbari, who frequents the area to observe the rhododendrons and nature.

Likewise, Krishna Loh, chairperson of the Teenjure Club at Chauki Bazaar, said a lot of trees were felled during the construction of the Basantapur-Jorpokhari road. “The rhododendron forest is likely to be cleared further as branch roads connecting villages in the area and Taplejung are still being constructed,” Bhandari said. Loh alleged that residents of small markets living along the walking trail were the ones engaged in the deforestation.

There are approximately 300 households living along the trail, with half a dozen small markets including Basantapur, Tutedeurali, Chowki, Mangalbare, Gupha and Jorpari, among others. As locals use firewood to ward off the cold, timber is in high demand. Local residents in the TMJ area said they had no option other than cutting down rhododendron trees as there were no other trees in the area. However, some said they preferred the rhododendron trees as they are small, easier to cut down and burn easily. Hari Prasad Khanal of Guphaphokhari said construction of roads has indirectly helped increase the rate of deforestation. He, however, said that no one has bothered to plant trees though people are cutting down trees haphazardly.

Similarly, Hima Devi Khanal, secretary of Giddhe Community Forest, said the apathy of the forest officials had also encouraged people to engage in the illegal activity.

Nabin Adhikari of Tamaphok said deforestation would be controlled only if the government provided electricity and cooking gas at subsidised rates for locals.

The TMJ area has 28 of the total 32 species of rhododendron trees found in the country. The area, according to Nepal Tourism Board, is the fifth best tourist destination in the country.

Published: 04-05-2014 09:54

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