KATHMANDU, JUN 26 – The inhabitants of upper Dolpa have demanded a ban on yarchagumba collection arguing that the over harvest of the parasitic fungi prized for its medicinal values had ravaged the highland pastures, threatening the livelihood of the locals.
The highland pastures remain covered in snow for eight months and just as the snow starts melting, people throng the meadows to harvest the caterpillar fungi. Pastures for local livestock are depleting as thousands of herb pickers from the 28 neighbouring districts and beyond scour the grassland in search of the ‘aphrodisiac’, locals claim.
The locals depend on yaks and mountain goats for sustenance and transportation, as only cereal and potatoes can be cultivated in the region. According to Norbu Ghale, chairman of Dolpa Indigenous Development Centre, 60 yaks have died of starvation in the last two years. A yak is usually traded for Rs 100,000 in the local market.
On Wednesday, local leaders including former Peace Minister Satya Pahadi and representatives of 17 organisations from the region urged Forest Minister Mahesh Acharya to revoke the directive issued by the bureaucratic government last year and restore the community’s rights over natural resources. They said the directive was against the International Labour Organisation Convention, of which Nepal is a signatory.
The demands follow the alleged police brutality in Dho village that led to the death of two locals with hundred others injured. The villagers claim a group of 50 officers from the Nepal Police and the Armed Police Force reached the village on June 3 and confiscated money collected by villagers as tax from Yarchagumba pickers. When the villagers protested the police move insisting that they had the right to levy tax over the village’s natural resources, the security personnel allegedly resorted to violence.
Calling for a proper investigation into the incident and action against the culprits, the team demanded compensation for the kin of the deceased and property damaged by police. In a nine-point charter of demands, the team has called for dissolution of the Buffer Zone Management Committee minister, removal of the temporary police post from Dho village, action against the chief district officer, among others.
Minister Acharya expressed his commitment to form a probe panel to look into the incident and environmental matters. He also assured that he would coordinate with the Home Ministry for a comprehensive review of the security and resource management in Dolpa.