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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
02KATHMANDU2237
2002-11-25 08:29:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Kathmandu
Cable title:  

MAOIST IMPACT: NEPAL'S FORESTS UNDER SIEGE

Tags:   SENV  PGOV  ECON  EAGR  PTER  EAID  TBIO  XD  NP 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KATHMANDU 002237 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR OES, OES/PCI STEWART, OES/ETC CONDO and STAS
STATE ALSO FOR SA A/S ROCCA, DAS CAMP, SA/INS AND SA/RA
STATE PASS TO AID - ANE/WILSON
EPA FOR OIA - T MACDONALD
DOI FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
DOJ FOR JOHN WEBB
LONDON FOR POL - RIEDEL
BANGKOK FOR REO OSIUS
TASHKENT FOR REO WATTS

E.O. 12598: N/A
TAGS: SENV PGOV ECON EAGR PTER EAID TBIO XD NP
SUBJECT: MAOIST IMPACT: NEPAL'S FORESTS UNDER SIEGE

REF: KATHMANDU 2152 (AND PREVIOUS)



1. SUMMARY: The impact of the Maoist insurgency has
not been limited to Nepal's national parks and
conservation areas (septel). The assault on the
country's wildlife has been accompanied by a plundering
of forest and other plant resources. Biodiversity
resources of global significance are threatened.
Nepal's community forestry programs, a model for the
rest of South Asia, are reeling from the climate of
insecurity. The conflict is contributing to migration
away from food-insecure areas and hollowing out the
rural economy. End summary.

ILLEGAL LOGGING AND PLUNDER OF FOREST RESOURCES


--------------------------

--



2. The Department of Forests recently reported that
insurgents have destroyed 40 out of 92 area forest
offices in the country. Similarly, 190 out of the 696
range posts have been destroyed. This accelerating
trend threatens to raise the rate of deforestation in
Nepal beyond current estimates of 1.7 percent per year.
Large-scale damage to this resource base could have
serious repercussions on Nepal's fragile watersheds as
well.



3. Reports indicate that illegal logging and other
criminal activities have increased as local people are
forced to find ways to make ends meet. Visitors and
journalists who have dared to travel to such northern
outposts of Nepal as Humla and Gorkha report that as a
result of both the growing security vacuum and falling
numbers of tourists, locals are resorting to illegal
timber harvesting, smuggling lumber across the border
to Tibet. Since coniferous trees in these high
altitude areas grow slowly, the loss will be nearly
irreparable.



4. Not only Nepal's megafauna, but also plants are at
risk. Valuable species (some rare), such as medicinal
herbs, are being overharvested for quick profit, either
by villagers or the Maoists. If unchecked, this could
bring extinction to certain species of global
biodiversity significance. Further, in Chitwan and
other parks, ecosystems are at risk because the
security vacuum allows people illegally to bring
livestock in to graze.

COMMUNITY FORESTRY TAKES A HIT


--------------------------





5. Community forestry has been another victim of the
insurgency. Nepal has more than 11,500 forest user
groups in nearly all of its 75 districts, with
participation by about 1.2 million households, and has
been lauded internationally for its exemplary success
in reclaiming denuded hillsides through community
forestry efforts. Years of painstaking effort by local
communities in partnership with the Nepalese government
and donors such as USAID, DANIDA, and DFID have
resulted almost 9,000 square kilometers of forests
being turned over to community management -- about 50
percent larger than the total forest cover of national
parks and protected forests.



6. But now many of these community forests are going
unmanaged and are practically abandoned. Villagers,
caught in the crossfire between Maoist insurgents and
army patrols, are sta
ying out of their own forests,
unable to either harvest the forest products required
for their daily subsistence or protect their resources
and conduct remedial forestry activities.



7. The diversion of government revenues from the
forestry and other sectors into the fight against
terrorism has caused serious hardship to forest
officials and rural people alike. The department budget
has been cut significantly this year. In addition,
donor-funded projects have either been terminated or
limited to more secure areas, such as district
headquarters. Many local community forest groups are
denied services for saplings, seedlings, technical
expertise and other needed inputs.



8. The insurgency is indirectly responsible for other
pressures on community forests. An increasingly cash-
strapped government is starting to look particularly at
the valuable hardwoods in the Terai as a potential
source of income. Some officials question whether
community forestry is actually the right approach,
calling instead for joint management of forests between
the user groups and the government. The incentive: the
royalties that could be tapped by exporting lumber to
nearby India. (Note: this would be similar to the
strategy used by India, which has been considerably
less successful than Nepal in protecting forest
resources).



9. COMMENT: The vast majority of Nepal's people still
lives in rural areas and relies on agriculture for
livelihoods. People depend tremendously on forest
resources for energy and other daily needs such as
animal fodder, medicinal plants, and building
materials. The degradation of their forests threatens
to break the back of the rural economy and will lead to
greater food insecurity. This can only result in
increased migration. The emptying-out of Nepal's rural
areas, especially of younger, economically active
people, is accelerating, with famine becoming an ever
more likely prospect for Nepal's more remote areas,
such as the far west. Septel will address food
security issues in more detail.

MALINOWSKI

.