On 29 November, Hon’ble Lyonpo, Yeshey Dorji, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests visited the Wangdue Territorial Forest Division on his way back from visit to Royal Orchard at Kamechu.
Lyonpo granted an audience and interacted with the forestry officials. During the meeting, the Chief Forestry Officer (CFO) presented a status of forestry offence highlighting why offence cases in Wangdue is high comparing to the rest, its major challenges and issues faced by the field staff. The CFO pointed out that Wangdue Division is one of the biggest Territorial Divisions in Bhutan covering an area of 5030.00 sq. km and delivering services to 26 geogs of Punakha and Wangdue. He added that the rapid increase in population and ongoing two mega hydroelectric projects has substantially contributed to the growth of offence cases. He further added that despite the considerable advocacy efforts put up by the Division in tackling the offence cases, many people knowingly carry out illegal activities.
Many Range Officers expressed their concern on the false statement submission and accusing forestry officials to the higher authorities when they are apprehended and penalised. The Wangdue Range Officer expressed that the problem with the defaulter is that they like to be right and sometimes defend ideas to the death rather than admitting they are wrong. Another Range Officer shared that they do not expect to be a legal expert; all of them do comply with the rules and regulations and seek advices from their manager. He also stated that they have a responsibility to conduct activity complying the rules and regulations which would minimise future illegal activities.
Another officer from the Division pointed out that the trend on misuse of rural house building timber is increasing as per the Division offence statistics for 2011-2014. He expressed that many people have not been utilising the timber for the allotted purpose, therefore there is a strong needs to review the subsidised timber allotment policy and rationalise the system. He also expressed that the clients desire to dispatch surplus timber to another endpoint with so many futile excuses making it one of the ambiguities for misuses to happen.
Besides, the Wangdue Division is a potential area for sand quarry supplying 25000 truckloads of sand annually. Two mega hydropower projects falling within the Division invites lots of illegalities. The Dzong reconstruction project is another task which is in full swing, the 10 stone quarries approximately having 352.88 acres are all into operation along with the leased out 478.44 acres of state forest reserve land to PHPA I and II and other business entities, 6 wood based industries, 13 furniture houses and 2 Forest Management Units. Further, most of the areas in the Division are prone to forest fire and it is one of the cordyceps growing areas in Bhutan. These are some of the concerns that need attention to reduce offence cases in the future.
Submitted by Tashi Dhendup, Wangdue Territorial Forest Division
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