forest bureaucracy is set to follow the footsteps of its Indian counterpart. What was hailed as a radical community forest management (cfm) programme is on the brink of a complete, disastrous makeover. The Forest (Second Amendments) Bill, 2001, to be soon placed in parliament for approval, will strip the autonomy of some 9,000 forest protecting communities known as forest users' groups (fugs). They are involved in the regeneration of more than 700,000 hectares (ha) of the country's forests.

The proposed amendments to the 1993 Forest Act, which secedes government control over forests to fugs, will not only limit the latter's control over forest but also bring back most of the community forests under the control of the forest department (fd). As in India, the bill will tilt heavily in favour of the fd . After this bill is adopted, fug s will have to give away 65 per cent of their earnings from the forests regenerated by them to the government.

Experts believe that the bill appears to be a strategic legislation to snatch control over the densely forested and highly valued terai (plain) forests from an aggressive community that wants to protect it from timber smugglers backed by politicians.

The government claims that the proposed amendments will strengthen its 20-year-old cfm. "What we want is community participation as well as a participatory forest development programme in the terai,' says K B Shrestha, divisional chief of FD's community forest division.

The government has reasoned that the bill is to