Timber: Selling timber meant for rural use, an illegal activity according to forestry regulations is on the rise in Punakha and Wangdue region.

From just five cases of illegal sale of rural timber in 2011, the Wangdue territorial division, based in Lobesa recorded 23 cases since January 2014. Between 2012-2013 about 13 cases were registered with the division and 16 cases in 2013-2014. The division is one of the biggest territorial divisions that looks after an area of 5,030 sq.km and caters to 26 gewogs in Punakha and Wangdue.

The increase in illegal business, official said, was because of the misuse of rural housing timber quota availed to villagers besides loaning timber without approval. The quota is sold to timber dealers.

Rural households are entitled to eight drashings (standing trees) 80 chams (battens) and 80 tshim (poles) after every 30 years. For maintenance, each household is entitled to four drashings after every 12 years, the Athang gup Khandu Dorji.

Rubesa gup Gyeltshen said there were many cases, where people have availed the quota for maintenance of their houses, but sold it. “When people sell the quota to timber dealers, they tend to cut down more trees,” he said. “Often, rural people earn only about Nu 5,000 from selling their quota. It is the timber dealers who benefit the most.”

Forest officials said villagers are aware of the rule, but are selling it for the prospect of money.

Officials reasons that allowing rural people to take surplus timber was increasing the number of offences. “People sell surplus timber to other people with baseless excuses, which encourages misuse,” said an official. They said many villagers were not utilising the timber for the allotted purpose. “There is a strong need to review the subsidised timber allotment policy and rationalise the system,” he said.

Meanwhile, forestry officials also said that after the commencement of two mega hydropower projects within the division, it has been dealing with many illegal activities like fishing, illegal collection of sand and timber, dumping of solid waste along the Punatsangchhu River.

Defecating along the banks of Punatsangchhu is another problem the division face, which is prohibited by the water Act said forestry officials. The division conducts constant inspection and patrolling along the riverside every month.

By Dawa Gyelmo ,  Wangdue