1,159 forestry offence cases recorded last year

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) apprehended and detected 1,159 offence cases in 2017.

The crimes committed comprised mainly hunting and poaching of wild animals and their parts, smuggling and illegal sale and misuse of timber products, collection of non-wood forest products without permit and other illegal activities. Despite frequent patrolling and active vigil, crimes related to forest have been on the rise.

However, this remains a challenge for the department and the foresters as the latest figure for 2017 shows 577 cases related to illegal timber harvest and trade, followed by collections of sand, soil and stone boulders with 181 cases and third, fishing and wildlife poaching accounted for a total of 149 cases, resulting in a huge black market for wildlife.

A forestry official based in Thimphu said monitoring the situation at the moment regularly required shared responsibilities by the communities such as reporting the illegal activities.

“Most of the crimes occur because our country is used as transit,” he said.

He attributed the increase in illegal business to misuse of rural housing timber quota availed by villagers besides loaning timber without approval. The quota is sold to timber dealers and villagers are aware of the rule, but are selling it nevertheless.

While various measures in both policy and implementation level were carried out by the Department, offence and illegal cases are still a major challenge for the Department and the nation as a whole.

Timber-related cases involving misuse of rural timber and other surplus timber were the most common offence detected. Out of the 1,159 cases detected, 1,154 cases were solved incurring a fine of Nu 27.89mn.

As per the forest facts and figures 2017 report, rural households are entitled to eight drashings (standing trees) 80 chams (battens) and 80 tshim (poles) every 30 years.

As per the rule in force, the detectors were rewarded a total of Nu 7.73mn for helping the Department detect and curb forestry related illegal activities.

Other crimes included extraction, transportation, trade and disposal of forest resources without legal sanctions, non-compliance to legal norms, and assault on forestry personnel, among others. Forest offences depended on the type of forest resources involved and nature of the offences.

Forest fire poses another major threat to the sustainability of the forests and is one of the major drivers of deforestation and degradation in Bhutan. In 2017, 31 fire incidences were recorded burning an area of 5,249 hectares.

Mongar witnessed maximum number of fire incidences (8) covering an area of 2,383 Ha. Though Dagana Dzongkhag had just one fire incidence, around 443 ha of area was burnt causing huge damage to the environment.

Today, Department of Forestry and Park Services has 1,439 technical staffs consisting of 1,245 male and 194 female foresters at different position levels and one of the main challenges faced by the Department is shortage of manpower.

Tshering from Thimphu