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Morcha feelers on timber ban

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 8, 2009

Kalimpong, July 7: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha is not averse to holding talks with the forest department on lifting of the ban on timber movement in the hills.

However, party insiders feel that the talks will be restricted to the movement of the felled logs, and not on fresh felling. The Morcha, they said, is firm on not allowing any fresh felling of trees in the hills.

The Morcha ban on timber trade has been on for more than a year. The Kalimpong division of the West Bengal Forest Development Corporation, which earns between Rs 9 crore and Rs 12 crore a year from timber trade, has borne the brunt of the ban as it has not been able to generate any revenue last year.

Harka Bahadur Chhetri, the newly appointed spokesperson of the Morcha, has, however, stressed the need to take an informed stand on the timber trade. “A fact-finding team could go into the issue and submit a detailed report to the party president. Thereafter, we should leave it to his wisdom,” he said.

Chhetri may have been alluding to unconfirmed reports that, despite the ban, timber is still being clandestinely moved from places in the foothills and the plains. This is being done in collusion with a section of Morcha leaders and supporters engaged in the trade. The hill party had imposed the ban as part of its non-cooperation movement in support of Gorkhaland.

According to the spokesperson, lifting the ban will make sense, otherwise the logs will rot. “However, in my opinion, there should be a monitoring committee to ensure that only the felled timbers are traded. Leaving the task to the party’s local units could become counter-productive because they could have their vested interests,” Chhetri said.

Economics was not the only factor for the imposition of the ban, but environmental concerns also played a role, Chhetri said. “Revenue can be generated from many other sources, but how can you generate environment? Nature, at best, can only be protected. The Morcha president has always given top priority to environmental concerns.”

Source: The Telegraph


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