With the guideline for import of timber in place, any Bhutanese can now import timber from outside the country
Caught between a rock and a hard place, the government has been exploring avenues to meet the timber shortage in the country, which has become worse by the day. The country’s policy to maintain 60% forest cover for all times and the growing demand for timber has led the government to allow import of timber from other countries.
With the increasing pace of development and numerous ongoing constructions across the country, it has become increasingly difficult to meet the timber requirement. Construction industry has repeatedly complained of unavailability of timber in the market.
The government has now come up with a guideline for import of timber.
According to the guidelines, any Bhutanese individual can now import timber both for personal use and commercial purposes including resale within the country. This is expected to reduce the growing pressure on the forests besides creating employment for Bhutanese.
The guidelines aims to facilitate smooth movement of timber into the country and put in place an appropriate system to prevent the introduction of exotic pests and diseases through such imports, and ensure adequate monitoring of the imported timber.
It says that based on the directions of the National Forest Policy, 1974, and the legal protection provided by the Forest Acts, the government laid focus on ensuring all forestry operations are based on the principle of sustained yield and minimizing environmental damages by forest roads.
“It is this consistent policy that the country has been able to maintain more than 72 percent of the country under forest cover,” states the guideline.
The guideline states that the option of increasing the supply by compromising on the principle of “sustained yield” is non-negotiable as it could lead to deforestation, thereby not fulfilling the constitutional requirement.
“The demand for timber is not likely to plateau or go down. Therefore, one of the feasible options to deal with the demand-supply problem is to allow or encourage import of timber,” states the guideline.
The guideline sets clear procedures for one to import timber. For one to import timber, one has to provide proper and valid documents specifying the origin of the timber.
It says that the importer should first apply to the Department of Forest and Park Services for approval. And while arrival at the entry point the importer must declare the timber consignment to the Bhutan Agriculture and Food regulatory Authority (BAFRA) for meeting the quarantine formalities.
“Once the quarantine requirements are fulfilled then the consignment will be handed over to forest officials,” states the guideline.
The guideline also says that any individual importing timber should pay a certain import fee levied by the department and if the importer does not produce required documents the imported timber will be confiscated.
The pricing and marketing of the imported timber is left to the importers. “The pricing and marketing will depend on the market situation and it will not be fixed by the Natural Resources Pricing Committee (NRPC),” states the guideline.
The Department of Forests and Park Services has also explored various avenues to increase the quantity of timber including opening up new Forest Management Unit (FMUs) but has not been able to keep up with the demand.