Chhimi Dema

The National Assembly yesterday repealed three sections of the Forest and Nature Conservation Bill of Bhutan 2021.

The House repealed section 26 pertaining seize and release livestock used for transportation of illegal forest produce; section 27 regarding the power to confiscate vehicle, equipment and machinery; and section 47, the allotment of timber from State Reserved Forest Land.

The Environment and Climate Change Committee of the House presented the bill on June 10 and has made 134 recommendations.

While deliberating on the power to seize the forest produce and confiscate equipment or machinery, Gasa’s Khamaed-Lunana Member of Parliament (MP) Yeshey Dem, said that it could become too heavy for people if forest officials confiscate forest produce and also equipment.

Section 24 of the Bill states that forestry officials shall exercise the power to seize forest produce being illegally transported, transacted, stored, felled, collected and in possession.

Section 27 states the forestry official has the power to confiscate any vehicle, equipment or machinery used in the commission of a forest offence.

MP Yeshey Dem said the House should consider keeping the equipment and machinery belonging to the poachers and levy the fines only.

She added that it was villagers who fell trees for use in small construction such as a toilet.

The committee also recommended adding “in a transparent manner” in Section 25 of the Bill, which specifies the disposal of confiscated forest produce.

A committee member, Lamgong-Wangchang MP Ugyen Tshering, said that during consultations, people raised concerns that they are not aware where the confiscated goods are taken and whether they are auctioned or not.

He said the term “transparent manner” is necessary to clarify to the people where the goods were taken.

Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said the poachers aim to acquire forest produces that are better in quality. “Auctioning the forest produce is easy.”

He said that the ministry supports the recommendation of the committee.

Meanwhile, NA asked the committee to revisit section 24 for amendment, which is on power to seize and confiscate forest produce. 

The House will continue the deliberation of the remaining provisions of the Bill at an appropriate time of the session.