US embassy cable - 02KATHMANDU2237

MAOIST IMPACT: NEPAL'S FORESTS UNDER SIEGE

Identifier: 02KATHMANDU2237
Wikileaks: View 02KATHMANDU2237 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Kathmandu
Created: 2002-11-25 08:29:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: SENV PGOV ECON EAGR PTER EAID TBIO XD NP Maoist Insurgency
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KATHMANDU 002237 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR OES, OES/PCI STEWART, OES/ETC CONDO and STAS 
STATE ALSO FOR SA A/S ROCCA, DAS CAMP, SA/INS AND SA/RA 
STATE PASS TO AID - ANE/WILSON 
EPA FOR OIA - T MACDONALD 
DOI FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 
DOJ FOR JOHN WEBB 
LONDON FOR POL - RIEDEL 
BANGKOK FOR REO OSIUS 
TASHKENT FOR REO WATTS 
 
E.O. 12598:  N/A 
TAGS: SENV, PGOV, ECON, EAGR, PTER, EAID, TBIO, XD, NP, Maoist Insurgency 
SUBJECT:  MAOIST IMPACT: NEPAL'S FORESTS UNDER SIEGE 
 
REF: KATHMANDU 2152 (AND PREVIOUS) 
 
1.  SUMMARY: The impact of the Maoist insurgency has 
not been limited to Nepal's national parks and 
conservation areas (septel).  The assault on the 
country's wildlife has been accompanied by a plundering 
of forest and other plant resources.  Biodiversity 
resources of global significance are threatened. 
Nepal's community forestry programs, a model for the 
rest of South Asia, are reeling from the climate of 
insecurity.   The conflict is contributing to migration 
away from food-insecure areas and hollowing out the 
rural economy.  End summary. 
 
ILLEGAL LOGGING AND PLUNDER OF FOREST RESOURCES 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
2.  The Department of Forests recently reported that 
insurgents have destroyed 40 out of 92 area forest 
offices in the country.  Similarly, 190 out of the 696 
range posts have been destroyed.  This accelerating 
trend threatens to raise the rate of deforestation in 
Nepal beyond current estimates of 1.7 percent per year. 
Large-scale damage to this resource base could have 
serious repercussions on Nepal's fragile watersheds as 
well. 
 
3.  Reports indicate that illegal logging and other 
criminal activities have increased as local people are 
forced to find ways to make ends meet.   Visitors and 
journalists who have dared to travel to such northern 
outposts of Nepal as Humla and Gorkha report that as a 
result of both the growing security vacuum and falling 
numbers of tourists, locals are resorting to illegal 
timber harvesting, smuggling lumber across the border 
to Tibet.  Since coniferous trees in these high 
altitude areas grow slowly, the loss will be nearly 
irreparable. 
 
4.  Not only Nepal's megafauna, but also plants are at 
risk.  Valuable species (some rare), such as medicinal 
herbs, are being overharvested for quick profit, either 
by villagers or the Maoists.  If unchecked, this could 
bring extinction to certain species of global 
biodiversity significance.  Further, in Chitwan and 
other parks, ecosystems are at risk because the 
security vacuum allows people illegally to bring 
livestock in to graze. 
 
COMMUNITY FORESTRY TAKES A HIT 
------------------------------ 
 
5.  Community forestry has been another victim of the 
insurgency.  Nepal has more than 11,500 forest user 
groups in nearly all of its 75 districts, with 
participation by about 1.2 million households, and has 
been lauded internationally for its exemplary success 
in reclaiming denuded hillsides through community 
forestry efforts.  Years of painstaking effort by local 
communities in partnership with the Nepalese government 
and donors such as USAID, DANIDA, and DFID have 
resulted almost 9,000 square kilometers of forests 
being turned over to community management -- about 50 
percent larger than the total forest cover of national 
parks and protected forests. 
 
6.  But now many of these community forests are going 
unmanaged and are practically abandoned.  Villagers, 
caught in the crossfire between Maoist insurgents and 
army patrols, are sta 
ying out of their own forests, 
unable to either harvest the forest products required 
for their daily subsistence or protect their resources 
and conduct remedial forestry activities. 
 
7.  The diversion of government revenues from the 
forestry and other sectors into the fight against 
terrorism has caused serious hardship to forest 
officials and rural people alike. The department budget 
has been cut significantly this year.  In addition, 
donor-funded projects have either been terminated or 
limited to more secure areas, such as district 
headquarters.  Many local community forest groups are 
denied services for saplings, seedlings, technical 
expertise and other needed inputs. 
 
8.  The insurgency is indirectly responsible for other 
pressures on community forests.  An increasingly cash- 
strapped government is starting to look particularly at 
the valuable hardwoods in the Terai as a potential 
source of income.  Some officials question whether 
community forestry is actually the right approach, 
calling instead for joint management of forests between 
the user groups and the government.  The incentive: the 
royalties that could be tapped by exporting lumber to 
nearby India. (Note: this would be similar to the 
strategy used by India, which has been considerably 
less successful than Nepal in protecting forest 
resources). 
 
9.  COMMENT:  The vast majority of Nepal's people still 
lives in rural areas and relies on agriculture for 
livelihoods.  People depend tremendously on forest 
resources for energy and other daily needs such as 
animal fodder, medicinal plants, and building 
materials.  The degradation of their forests threatens 
to break the back of the rural economy and will lead to 
greater food insecurity.  This can only result in 
increased migration.  The emptying-out of Nepal's rural 
areas, especially of younger, economically active 
people, is accelerating, with famine becoming an ever 
more likely prospect for Nepal's more remote areas, 
such as the far west.  Septel will address food 
security issues in more detail. 
 
MALINOWSKI 
 
                   . 

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