Nepal, renowned for its lush green forests, possesses vast potential in its forest resources. However, it is crucial for the government to optimize these resources while maintaining their sustainability. Failing to do so not only undermines the saying, “Green forest is Nepal’s wealth,” but also depletes the hard-earned foreign currency of the country. Recent data reveals an inadequate supply of timber, resulting in significant capital outflow through imports of timber, furniture, aluminium, and steel. This situation demands immediate attention to ensure the responsible management and utilization of Nepal’s forests. A key solution lies in tapping into the abundant variety of trees, including pine, found in community forests and protected areas. Experts recommend a sustainable approach, in which mature trees are selectively harvested for commercial purposes, followed by the planting of ten saplings in their place. This practice would not only expand forests but also ensure a renewable supply of timber for furniture production. Currently, Nepal relies on imports of timber and furniture worth millions of rupees from countries such as China, India, and Malaysia. By promoting local timber industries and fostering collaboration among the government, private sector, and community forest user groups, we can reduce dependence on imports and bolster domestic production.
The adoption of sustainable forestry management policies is paramount to maximize the utilization of natural resources. This approach will help Nepal achieve self-reliance in timber production and create green employment opportunities. Forests should be viewed as the foundation for prosperity, yet the returns derived from the country’s forested areas, which cover approximately 45 percent of the total land area, remain disappointingly low. To address this issue, effective coordination and cooperation among stakeholders are essential to unlock the full potential of Nepal’s forest resources. Undoubtedly, the concept of community forestry management has played a pivotal role in reviving Nepal’s forest covers, which were significantly depleted due to deforestation in the past. Currently, community forest user groups manage 30 percent of Nepal’s forest areas, contributing to conservation efforts and sustainable resource utilization. However, the focus has been solely on conservation, and little attention has been given to utilizing the growing forest cover for the country’s economic prosperity. According to the Department of Customs, the country’s expenditure on imported wooden furniture surged from approximately Rs 1 billion in 2018/19 to over Rs 7.30 billion in 2020/21. However, due to the staunch adherence to the principle of preserving trees, various development projects, including the installation of transmission lines, have encountered significant obstacles. Consequently, the available resources have not been fully utilized, hindering progress in developmental activities. A 2019 study reveals that Nepal has the capacity to annually produce 120 million cubic feet of timber from its forests, with domestic demand reaching approximately 60 million cubic feet. By exporting the surplus timber, Nepal could generate substantial income. Policies that facilitate the use and consumption of forest products, thereby connecting them to income sources and employment opportunities, should be prioritized.
The government’s current emphasis on expanding forest conservation efforts must be accompanied by measures that link community forests with the country’s prosperity. All levels of government should collaborate to establish favorable policies and regulations that enable the proper utilization of forest products. This is a significant opportunity to transform the increasing shrub lands into productive assets, fostering job creation in agriculture, forestry, furniture industries, medicinal herb processing, eco-tourism, and carbon trade. Given the declining use of firewood due to the accessibility of LPG cylinders, experts suggest establishing fertilizer industries across all seven provinces. By amending existing laws and acts that hinder the supply of timber to domestic and foreign markets, Nepal can generate substantial revenue. However, the success of these efforts relies on an actionable plan that takes into account the voices and socioeconomic status of community forest user groups. Nepal stands at a critical juncture where the sustainable utilization of its forest resources can bring immense benefits. The government must take immediate action to ensure responsible management and utilization of timber, promote local industries, and create a thriving economy built upon Nepal’s rich natural heritage. By doing so, we can uphold the adage, “Green forest is Nepal’s wealth,” and secure a prosperous and sustainable future for our nation.