New strategy to curb forest encroachment

 

The encroachment of forest land is rampant across the nation, especially in the Tarai. Finally, the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) has waken up to this growing ecological threat.

It has prepared a new strategy to keep the encroachment under control. Deepak Bohora, Minister for MoFSC, maintained that a firm commitment from all political parties could help curb the menace.

As per Article 49 of the Forest Act, 1992, an individual can be penalised for encroachment on the forest land. While, Article 16 of the same Act prohibits the registration of forest as private asset. Be that as it may, the regulation is only a paper tiger. "It failed to live up to its spirit, thanks to frequent interference from leaders of various political parties," said Krishna Chandra Paudel, Director General, Department of Forest. The latest MoFSC data suggests that 88,367 hectare of forest land were encroached in 30 districts.

Though the figures reveal that the Tarai is the biggest offender, there is lack of information for hilly and mountainous districts. The novel strategy aims to create a central forest encroachment control division. It will rope in various agencies like the Nepali Army, police, community forest users' group, home, finance, forest and local development, ministries to realise its ambitious plan. "Politicians adopt a convenient strategy for encroachment of forest land.

Usually, they goad the locals in the forefront in the name of championing their rights. This often leads to conflict of interest, resulting in frequent clashes between the encroaches and government authorities," said a Kailali-based forest officer. This brings to the moot question. Who all are encroaching upon forest land? Squatters, land mafia, freed kamaiyas, displaced along with people associated with government projects, army and police personnel are found to be the biggest offenders. As per the five-point strategy, plans are afoot to conserve at least 40 per cent of the nation's total land area as forest.

"We want to include this provision in the new statute," said Bohora. Lawmakers, however, are all for protecting the rights of the landless. "Encroachment is a genuine problem. The squatters need to be rehabilitated. While, the frauds should be brought to book," said Shanta Chaudhary, chairperson, Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources.

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