Trees are drying up in Dhankuta forests, bewildering locals

July 11, 2022

Ramesh Chandra Adhikari, The Kathmandu Post, July 11, 2022

Trees, mostly chir pines locally called Khote Salla, growing in around five hectares of forest land have dried up, according to the division forest office in Dhankuta.

Monsoon is the season when forests thrive and look lush but the community forests in Dhankuta Municipality wear a barren look.

More than 5,000 trees in three different community forests in the municipality have dried up, according to Community Forest Users’ Group members.

The trees in Chuliban Deurali, Pelekapang and Chuliban community forests in wards 7 and 8 of the municipality have dried up in the past two months. Forest users believe the trees are diseased.

“The trees on the northern slope started drying two months ago while others continue to dry,” said Hil Bahadur Rai, the chairman of Chuliban Deurali Community Forest Users’ Group. “We have never seen anything like this. We suspect the trees must have caught some sort of a disease.”

According to the division forest office, Dhankuta, the trees in around five hectares of forest land have dried up. The trees that are drying up are mostly chir pines, locally called Khote Salla.

The locals initially thought that some trees may have dried up due to hailstones or lightning strikes. But exposure to natural elements usually does not cause such large-scale damage to trees.

“Generally trees are green in the rainy season. They do not dry up even in long droughts,” said Chandra Bahadur Rai, chairman of Chuliban Community Forest Users’ Group. “We have informed the division forest office about the phenomenon.”

According to Chandra, besides chir pines, other trees such as pine, sal and chestnut have not been affected by the ‘unknown disease’. “It’s only chir pines that are drying up. We don’t know the exact reason but scientific studies must be conducted to prevent more trees from dying,” he said.

Forest users are worried that other trees in the forest may also get infected if timely precaution is not taken. The locals expressed their dissatisfaction over the delay in studying the incident.

The forest officials are also bewildered by the drying up of chir pines in the community forests. Meghraj Rai, chief of the district forest office, underscored the need for scientific research on the situation. “Preparation is on to request the forest research and training centre as well as the department of forest and soil conservation to conduct studies to determine the cause behind this strange phenomenon,” he said.

Dhankuta chapter of the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal, however, says that it has no knowledge about the drying up of trees. “We have not been informed about the issue,” said Nil Bahadur Thapa, the district chief of the federation. He assured that the federation would soon inquire about the incident and take necessary initiatives to control it.



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