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After Nepal, Bhutan a preferred conduit for sandalwood smugglers


Debasis Sarkar, SILIGURI (ET): After Indo-Nepal porous border, now, neighboring country Bhutan seems to have become a second choice for international sandalwood smugglers to get the item to China from India. Recent seizure of huge volume of sandalwood in Bhutan has confirmed this idea. Though medicinal usage of sandalwood in China is considered as main demand generator there, few other ‘lesser healthy’ possible usages are also now under scanner.

Bhutan, forest officials have recently seized a consignment of 900kg sandalwood at Paro on its way from Indian town Alipurdoar at indo-Bhutan border to, as suspected, China. As reported, this was the first sandalwood seizure case in Bhutan.

Interestingly, “As per existing Bhutan law, punishment of this is just cash fine of Nu 750 (Eqv. INR 750) per kg of sandalwood,” said Bhutan forest officials. According to them, in addition to comparatively easier law in this aspect or open Indo-Bhutan border, geographical location of the country in between India and China seemed to have made this route another preferred choice after well known Nepal route.

“Generally, red variety of sandalwood is smuggled to China. High frequency of seizures of that along Indo-Nepal border areas proves definite presence of high value grey trade through this route. Now Bhutan also comes into the picture,” said Directorate of Revenue Intelligence officials.

To stop this illegal trade, the buying chain must be broken- feels the officials in Directorate of Revenue Intelligence or Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan border Guarding force SSB. Thus, identifying ‘who’ and ‘why’ of this buying chain remains most important tusk.

As learnt, bought at around Rs 500 a kg in India, the item can fetch even Rs 3000 a kg in China. “Beside usages in alternative medicines, newly identified other possible usage avenues are quite disturbing. As discussed in Wildlife Crime Control Bureau platform, availability of radioactive elements like Thorium and Uranium in Red Sandalwood could be a major attraction. This angle is being studied seriously,” said senior Indian customs official R. Mungababu earlier during his tenure as additional Commissioner of Customs, North Bengal and Sikkim.

As found in Biogeochemical research, concentration of Uranium and Thorium in Red sandalwood is around 1.22 ppm (Eqv. 1.22Milligram/ kg) and 0.14 ppm respectively. “Apparently not very high concentration but suitable enough to open up a newer search for nuclear fuel source by-passing existing strict international regulations and laws applicable to handling and trading radioactive elements,” said a nuclear physicist reluctant to be named. Incidentally, China is now known to be in a process of using Thorium reactors for power production.

This is the high time for Government of India, Nepal and Bhutan to come together to break the chain- feel the officials.

For Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-ve) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point

For Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-ve) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point

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Information for Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point
Information for Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point
Information for Indian tourists travelling by land:- 72 hours (-) C-19 report, CCMC form and Antigen Test at entry point