RAMESH PRASAD BHUSAL
KATHMANDU: “There can be neither civilisation nor happiness if forests crash down under the axe,” Anton Pavlovich Chekhov had said way back in 1888. To save us the horror, a commission formed to investigate into reported rampant deforestation and corruption has recommended the government to initiate action against more than 100 officials.
Following mounting pressure in the wake of media reports and estimation by the parliamentary committee on natural resources on means that the country witnessed the worst deforestation in the last 30 years in 2010, the government had formed a Judicial Commission headed by former Judge Govinda Prasad Parajuli on July 12.
According to sources, the Parajuli-led commission has recommended action against more than 100 people — ranging from forest guards to high-level officials at the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation and the community forest users’ groups.
In a confidential report handed over to Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal today, the commission has recommended action against district forest officers from Panchthar, Bara, Dadeldhura, Kailali, Surkhet, Ilam, Udayapur, Sarlahi and Sindhuli districts, which were said to have witnessed the worst deforestation.
However, members of the commission refused to disclose the content of the report. But sources said more than 200 people — ranging from forest guards to former forest minister Deepak Bohara — were interrogated during the investigation and about 100 names have been recommended for action.
“The prime minister has expressed his commitment to implement the commission’s recommendation,” said PM Khanal’s press adviser Surya Thapa.
The 360-page report has tried to find out lapses in policy, system, legal aspect and irregularities in tree felling, wood trading and distribution.
“It is a very a sensitive issue as involvement of even high-level authorities has come to light. The chain of corruption is very strong, which needs to be broken at the earliest to save the forests,” said a source seeking anonymity.
The five-and-a-half months investigation was carried out by conducting on-field visits in more than 12 districts. “Bureaucrats’ involvement in corruption has been seen in many cases and almost all actors in the forestry sector are directly or indirectly involved in irregularities,” added the source.
“We have submitted the report to the prime minister and the ball is in the government’s court,” said Parajuli.
Officials at the ministry said the document has not been disclosed to anyone at the ministry. “I don’t have any idea about the content of the document, as it was not shown to me, but I was invited to the Office of the Prime Minister during the handover ceremony,” said Yubaraj Bhusal, Secretary, MoFSC.