New regulation to pave way for proper management of seized sandalwood

By Purushottam P. Khatri

rrrKathmandu, Aug. 10: Tonnes of seized red sandalwood that have been dumped at various forest offices including forest department will now be managed properly within the country.

The Department of Forest Management is finding a legal way out for the proper management of the red sandalwood that was seized during 15 years when the smuggling of sandalwood was at its height.
“The ‘Regulation to Control International Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora-2019’ will allow the government for the management within the country,” Deputy Director General Dr. Rajendra KC told The Rising Nepal.
“If the nation of origin (in the case of seized sandalwood, India) denied accepting the smuggled goods seized in Nepal, the new regulation will give us an opportunity for its formal management. The proper management may include auction or direct selling or destruction of the smuggled items,” Dr. KC said.
The Regulation is currently at the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and after the approval from the Ministry of Finance it will be endorsed from the cabinet meeting, according to Dr. KC.
According to KC, the Department till date has no regulation to implement and support on the Act introduced to Control International Trade of Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora-2017.
Through this new regulation, it will provide the legal way out to the department for the management of red sandalwood and other CITES including herbs and herbal plants in Nepal, he said.
Smuggling of valuable red sandalwood was in peak during and before 2005.
Smuggling and trading of red sandalwood is considered illegal in Nepal as this is kept in CITES Appendix-I. Nepal is a signatory of CITES convention of 1973 and a favouring nation of Appendices I, II and III.
Red sandalwood is mostly found in India’s Maharashtra, Karntak and few other states. Nepal is just a transit hub for its illegal smuggling.
According to the Department, more than 271 metric tons of seized red sandalwoods is lying almost unattended at many district forest offices of the country. According to the study of the Department, 20 districts have so far been used as a transit for its smuggling to the third nation especially China and Tibet, the autonomous region of China.
Very lately, the smuggled red sandalwood in Nepal was seized in 2015 from Rasuwa.
Since 2009, more than 63,900 kg seized red sandalwood is lying unattended at the Department.
It was on February 13, 2009, the Indian government after a cabinet decision of Nepal had agreed to take back their 36,063 kg of the seized red sandalwood from Nepal to India.
As per the rule, when any red sandalwood smuggler arrested with the contraband and when the case got registered in the concerned district court, the accused smugglers should be presented to the court along with the seized sample of red sandalwood.
Because of this provision, the department and the forest offices had to keep these contraband in safe condition until the case received its final hearing, according to Birat Basta Lamsal, forest officer at CITES section of the Department.
Some 20 districts used as smuggling routes in the past included Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk, Rupandehi, Nawalaparasi, Chitawan, Sarlahi, Jhapa, Kavre, Tehrathum, Taplejung, Dolakha, Kapilvastu, Dhading, and Bajhang. 

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