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The Manaslu Circuit Trek is the best all round tea-house hike in Nepal on the Great Himalaya Trail; the new Annapurna Circuit. No camping needed.

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.

In Humla the timber exporting story is similar as reported in Nepali Times in 2008 and a decade back 2000. It’s a slow motion death of the forests.

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.

Timber to Tibet on Vimeo. Discuss? See discussion here on Lonely Planet Thorntree.

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.

If there are no trees, there will be no water whenever one looks for it. The watering places will become dry. If forests are cut down, there will be avalanches. If there are many avalanches, there will be great accidents. Accidents also destroy the fields. Without forests, the householder’s work cannot be accomplished. Therefore he who cuts down the forest near a watering place will be fined five rupees. Fourteenth Edict of King Ram Shah (1606-1636)

* 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.

2 Responses

  1. Mohan Mainali said on October 22, 2012 at 6:27 am

    Thank you for mentioning my documentary Timber to Tibet. The documentary seems to be deleted. I will try to upload it after clearing the copyrights issue. There are so many issues related to this problem which I have mentioned in my book Upallo Thalo, a travelogue based on my three visits to the area (1994, 1995 and 2002). You may read the review of the book by The Kathmandu Post in Unfortunately, the book is in Nepali language. Photographs related to my books are posted in

    • admin@manaslu said on October 22, 2012 at 6:41 am

      Hello Mohan,
      Would be great if you could supply a new version of the film for people to see. Thanks for pointing out that it is now missing.


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