Trees yet to be planted to replenish those felled

Sunday, October 28th, 2018 | | National

Months after Nepal Army chopped around 20,000 trees to clear the forest for Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway, no step has been taken to plant saplings to recover the environmental damage. This is primarily due to the government’s delay in allocating land for the purpose.

The Forest Clearance Guidelines makes it mandatory for the developers to plant 25 trees elsewhere for every tree that is chopped for any project. They also have to nurture the saplings for a period of five years to ensure their growth. The rule holds the Forest Ministry responsible for allocating the land where the project builder plants saplings as required.

However, over a year since the national defence force started clearing the forest on the track for the expressway aimed at shortening travel time from the Capital to Nijgadh in Bara district to an hour, not a single sapling has been planted. The Army has already felled 20,000 trees and handed the wood over to the respective local community forest user groups. The NA has to plant half a million trees as replacement.

Nepal Army Spokesperson Brig Gen Gokul Bhandari told the Post that they were committed to following the guidelines in coordination with the ministry. Since the expressway alignment and land acquisition were yet to be completed, fresh plantation had not started, he said.

“We’ll start plantation once the technical glitches are solved,” Bhandari told the Post. Based on the environmental impact assessment, the Forest Ministry gave clearance to chop a maximum of 151,785 trees for the national pride project.

The trees felled account for around 15 percent of the permitted volume as the Army has cleared only the track area though it is permitted to clear an additional 15 metres on both sides. A total of 3.7 million saplings will be planted in case of the wider clearance, according to the EIA.

Sindhu Prasad Dhungana, spokesperson for the Forest Ministry, agreed that the plantation area had not been decided. The ministry is working to create a fund where the project builder injects the money required to plant trees rather than undertaking the actual task. In that case, the Army will deposit the money while the ministry takes the responsibility of plantation.