SIRAHA, March 25: Deforestation in the Chure region has escalated once again even as the government reportedly shelved its 'plan' to lift ban on extraction of Chure resources following widespread criticism.
Citing the need for resettling earthquake victims as well as exporting stones and pebbles for 'better income', the government, a few weeks ago, considered lifting the ban. But the government was hugely criticized by environmentalists and Chure locals who warned that the government's 'ill-intention' would invite environmental disaster in the already fragile Chure region.
Though the government hasn't talked about lifting the ban after that, the locals say, it has maintained an indifference towards conserving the Chure region, encouraging timber smugglers and mining mafia.
“Around 50 tractors are carrying stones and pebbles from the rivers in the Chure region on a daily basis. Timber in huge quantities is being smuggled,” said Bhesh Bahadur Thakuri, a local of Muksar village. He added that the locals of his village had protested against the exploitation which forced the mafias to change their route. “They did not stop extracting the resources but left our village and entered other areas. All this is happening with the backing of some government officials,” he claimed.
Thakuri lamented that the government's apathy to Chure conservation has encouraged the smugglers. “The administration is not interested in stopping it. This has quite encouraged the smugglers. Things have gone worse in the last few weeks,” said Thakuri.
Shilanath Jha, District Forest Officer of Siraha, admitted that 'illegal activities' are going on in the Chure forests. “We have been trying to stop it,” he, however, claimed.
Chief of Siraha Police, SP Shekhar Koirala meanwhile stated that the police is ever ready to extend support if the forest office asks for it. “We are always alert and ready to support them. The forest office has to come through the process and ask for help,” he said.
Locals warn that they have already been feeling the heat of environmental degradation following massive destruction of Chure in the past. After the government put ban on exploitation of the region, illegal extraction of Chure had been controlled a bit. “However, the smugglers are back again, spreading their tentacles,” Thakuri said.
If at all the government wants to save Chure and the environment, according to the locals, it has to stop thinking about lifting the ban on the extraction of Chure resources. Instead, say the locals, the ban has to be implemented very strictly. “Here in Muksar and Chandrodaya area, we have discouraged the smugglers. But until the government is serious about it, we locals alone cannot make a big difference as the smugglers are very powerful,” Thakuri said.