Timber to Tibet: deforestation in Nepal’s Manaslu mountain region
Nepal’s forest coverage apparently hovers around 30%. That’s somewhere between Great Britain’s desolate 2% and Bhutan’s 70%, the latter being an example to the world.
At 30%, and compared to most other countries, Nepal seems to be doing well. But zoom in to specific areas, with certain special kinds of tree coverage, and the story is much more worrying.
Director Mohan Mainali made a film about this in 2004 (see below). These days the situation is no better. The documentary is around 28 minutes long and has some great footage of the Kutang and Nubri areas. He points out that most of the trees are old growth trees which have taken 150 years to grow.
You can still today see Yaks hauling timber over the passes to Tibet as depicted in the film. There is still scant government presence in the upper reaches of Gorkha (apart from MCAP) and thus little monitoring or control.
While some of this logging activity can be attributed to greed and smuggling, much is simply due to no alternative options for income generation. Perhaps trekking tourism in Manaslu can begin to offer alternative incomes to selling the nation’s living timber supply to China?
Thanks to Mohan Mainali and the concerned residents in the film for shining a light on this sorry situation.
King Ram Shah’s edict on cutting trees
It is worth noting that many great conservation initiatives happen in Nepal. There is plenty of knowledge about conserving the environment. It is just that economic necessity (or theft) trump environmental considerations. Above Samagaon tree cutting is banned to protect from avalanches thrown down by Lord Pungyen. In Tsum, there is no killing of animals allowed, indeed a culture of non-violence. And from over 400 years ago, this* is worth printing.
* taken from the inside cover of Fatalism and Development by Dor Bahadur Bista.
Nepal’s forest future
A more general look at conservation of Nepal’s forests – a 5 minutes piece on Earthrise.