Nepal announces temporary logging ban

By Joanna Jolly
BBC News, Kathmandu

Image caption,
Logging is rampant across many South Asian countries

The Nepalese government has announced a two-month ban on all logging throughout the country.

The minister for forests told the BBC that an increase in the number of trees being cut down in forests in the low-land Terai area has led to the ban.

"Some logging is allowed in these community forests, but what we're finding is that this allowance is being exceeded," Deepak Bohara said.

"So we have banned all logging until we can formulate a new government policy.

"This will properly regulate the number of trees cut down," he said.

Forests are vitally important to Nepal, where the majority of the population still depends on agriculture for its livelihood.

As well as providing firewood and building materials, forests help collect and store groundwater, protect lowland areas from landslides and floods and encourage biodiversity.

Increased deforestation

Around a quarter of the land mass in Nepal is under forest, and much of this is managed by community projects.

Such projects in the foothills of the Himalayas have been successful in preserving forest cover, but projects in lowland areas have been less well managed.

Easy accessibility and low prices for community forest timber have meant these areas have suffered increased deforestation over recent years.

They are also under threat from squatters who have moved into the forests as part of a Maoist policy to grab land.

As well as banning all tree cutting, the ministry for forests has begun an investigation into local officials who manage areas where deforestation has become rampant.

"So far we have sacked six officials, and many more rangers and guards," Mr Bohara said.

"If we find they have benefited financially from the forests, we will bring criminal proceedings against them."

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