By Purushottam P. Khatri, Kathmandu, Jan. 17: Around 200,000 kilograms of red sandalwood that were seized on different dates in Nepal would ultimately be taken to India, the origin country of the CITES protected plants.
A Cabinet meeting held on January 13 took a decision to formally send the seized sandalwood back to India which had remained as an unresolved problem since 2009.
“The Ministry of Forest and Environment will write a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on coming Sunday to requesting to correspond the same message to Indian authorities,” Dr. Sindhu Prasad Dhungana, joint secretary and spokesperson at Forest Ministry told The Rising Nepal on Friday.
“The government of Nepal has now eased out the problem that has been lying since 2006 when its smuggling was at its height,” he said.
He said that those seized sandalwood should now be taken away by the Indian officials themselves in their own cost and management from Nepal within next 90 days of the cabinet decision.
The government took the decision remaining under Section 30 and its Sub-section 2 and 3 of an Act to Regulate and Control International Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora-2017. Under the provision, management of confiscated wild fauna or flora or their specimen was mentioned.
Sub-section 2 has stated that in case of an endangered species of wild fauna or flora is in living conditions and necessary for conservation, to release it in the natural habitat in Nepal or to plant or to refer to other agency for taking other measures for conservation.
According to Dhungana, the government had decided to send 173,071.792 kilograms of sandalwood back to India.
According to the Department Forest and Soil Conservation, it had earlier sent 36,000.63 kilograms of sandalwood back to India after the cabinet meeting held on February 13, 2009 decided to do so.
In absence of this decision, the Department had been encountering a hard time in the protection and security of sandalwood that had been dumped inside several vehicles, trucks and rooms of the different forest offices across the country.
Red sandalwoods are species of tree listed on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) of 1973. The government has imposed a ban on their trade and transport.
As of today, over 63,000.900 kilogram of red sandalwood had been dumped along with impounded trucks and vehicles on the premises of the department, the largest stock among the districts, according to Birat Basta Lamsal, officer at CITES section at the Department.
At least four or five armed police officers are deployed to guard the seized red sandalwood on the premises of the Department.
The forest offices have been deputing additional manpower and manage separate building for impounded item’s proper and safe management, said Bijaya Raj Subedi, forest officer under the department said.
Destination of the smuggled redwood used to be China and Nepal as its transit route while its smuggling from India.
As a signatory member of the CITES protocol of 1973, Nepal government considers the red sandalwood as a protected plant.
As per the CITES provision, once the red sandalwood seized in Nepal, a signatory member of the CITES, such seized woods must be sent back to the country of origin (India). But the Indian government is not willing to tsake the smuggled items back, Lamsal said.
Red sandalwood is planted and grown only in India. IUCN and CITES have kept this plant in the endangered and protected lists.
Subedi said that they were facing problems to manage the seized red sandalwood after many cases were pending in the courts.
Many court cases related to red sandalwood smuggling are pending in various courts of the country. The cases were registered in Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk, Rupandehi, Nawalaparasi, Chitwan, Sarlahi, Jhapa, Kavrepalanchowk, Tehrathum, Taplejung, Dolakha, Kapilvastu, Dhading and Bajhang districts.
Meanwhile, Dr. Ram Prasad Lamsal, Director General at the Department, said that the government took the decision after amending in the newly endorsed Regulation to Control International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora-2019 and Regulation of Trade in Specimens of Species as mentioned in the Article III 1 (b) of the CITES.
If incase, India didn’t take the goods back to their country, the government of Nepal again have to do another specific decision about management of the seized sandalwood, according to DG Lamsal.