Saptakoshi flood is a boon for firewood collectors


By Baburam Karki

Barahakshetra, June 22: With the onset of monsoon, locals living near the Saptakoshi River have started collecting firewood from the flooded Saptakoshi River. 

The locals are busy extracting firewood, which is carried downstream by floods originating in the nearby hilly areas. Since the first week of Ashad (mid-June) the locals have been diligently collecting firewood washed into the river from eastern hills. Firewood has become a vital source of income for hundreds of families.

At other times, they rely on wage labour and in the rainy season,  they make income by extracting firewood from the Koshi River. The locals of the Saptakosi River areas such as Chatara, Shesauli Ghat, Mahendranagar, Sukrabare, Rajabas and Dharahara Tapan have been collecting firewood from the river using bamboo.

Wood and firewood worth millions of rupees are extracted every year from the banks of the Koshi River at Sisaulighat in Baraha Kshetra, Sukhare Kshetra, Rajabas and Dharahara Tapan.

Logs of Uttis, Khayer, Sal and Chilaune are washed away by floods and landslides from the eastern hilly area into the Koshi River. For six months of the year, hundreds of families sustain their livelihoods by collecting firewood from the Koshi River and selling it.

The floods that occur in the Koshi River during the four months of the rainy season cause suffering to many people. However, for those who earn a living by collecting firewood, these floods provide employment opportunities.

But collecting firewood brought by the deluge is also risky. 

Recounting the challenges, Sagar Prasai, one local,  said they had to risk their lives while collecting firewood from the flood of the Koshi River.

“We work day and night during the rainy season, as firewood becomes accessible only when floodwaters rise,” shared 30-year-old Prasai, underlining the dedication required to sustain this livelihood. With the onset of rains, locals, including Prasai, gathered at the Koshi shore in Dharahara Tapan early in the morning to collect logs. 

They use bamboo tools known as Tago to drag wood and firewood brought by the river from the hilly areas. Last year, firewood harvesting in Koshi began only in the third week of Ashad.

Despite the challenges, the harvested wood from the Koshi River is not used directly for household fuel but is sold to meet household expenses.

During the three months of the rainy season, collecting and selling firewood has become a small-scale occupation. 

Rajesh Kumar Chandravanshi, a local, mentioned that firewood collected this way is sold for Rs.15,000 to 25,000 per tractor-load.

Another local, Sridam Chandravanshi, said that since the monsoon rains started in the first week of Ashad this year, the Koshi River had begun bringing firewood early.

“Our jobs open up after the flood in the hills,” he said happily, noting that he was able to collect firewood early. 

He added, “The same flood brings hardship to some and happiness to others.” 

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