United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees defines four main reasons for refugees flows: political instability, economic tensions, ethnic conflict, and environmental degradation. Movement of thousands of people and the establishment of refugee camps often has a serious impact on local environment, as well as on the welfare of nearby communities. Nepal has also hosted Bhutanese refugees in the eastern region since 1990. In this context, Humse-Dumse Community Forest was selected to study the impacts of Bhutanese refugee settlements on the forest, as three refugee camps (Beldangi I, Beldangi II and Beldangi III) have been established inside the forest. The reconnaisance survey was conducted during October 2010 and field survey during January 2011. Vegetation analysis and questionnaire survey (to both refugees and Community Forest User Groups) were done by using stratified random samplings. Socio-economic status of the Bhutanese refugees and CFUGs, their resources (fodder and fuelwood) need and access, and their extraction practices are highlighted in the questionnaire survey, and status of forest resources and its supply scenario are highlighted in the vegetation part. The camp settlement inside the CF has reduced the forest area by one fifth. As the refugees had no strong income source, they had no other better alternative (for the fuel resource) than extracting fuelwood from the nearby village, Community Forest and from market. From the CFUGs, landless were more depended on the C.F for both fodder and fuelwood. Annual extraction of both fodder (2896.07 t/yr) and fuelwood (1503.74 t/yr) by the Bhutanese refugees are quite higher than that of CFUGs‟ (fodder; 1792.53 t/yr and fuelwood; 289.16 t/yr), outstripping the forest‟s annual sustainable supply (fodder; 152.83 TDN in t/yr and fuelwood; 1087.79 t/yr). Absence of refugee settlement would greatly reduce these extractions so that the C.F resources do not get overharvested. Moreover, the refugees‟ illegal activities such as slice cutting of trees stems, uprooting of regenerating species and small herb saplings, collecting twigs and broken branches for fuelwood, collecting fodder for their livestock were increasing pressure load for the forest resources. All these activities of the refugees in longer term will definitely decline the forest‟s sustainability to a very high extent. Therefore, there is an emerging need of strong policy amendment regarding these settlements inside the community forest.
Bhutanese refugees, CFUGs, extraction, forest resources, sustainability, vegetation analysis, UNHCR