Call for implementation of Chepang Protected Area

Published On: January 15, 2024 07:40 AM NPT By: RSS

CHITWAN, Jan 15: The marginalized Chepang community has called for the implementation of the 'Chepang Protected Area', saying although the government announced the scheme it is yet to implement it.

The community leaders attending the seventh central national assembly of Nepal Chepang Association held in Bharatpur of Chitwan complained that although the Bagmati provincial government declared Chitwan, Makawanpur and Dhading as the 'protected area' for the Chepang population, it has not been implemented yet.

"The Bagmati provincial government has declared Chitwan, Makawanpur and Dhading as the 'Chepang Protected Area'. The announcement is in name only and it has not come into implementation so far," said the association’s Central President Govindaram Chepang. He added that the government has declared the protected area but has not allocated a budget for it.

Another participant, Bil Bahadur Chepang said the problems of the Chepang community cannot be addressed only by announcing the protected area and called for prompt implementation of the announcement.

"We have been demanding that services and facilities including education, health, infrastructure development and special programmes, among others should be provided free of cost in the protected area. Our demand has not been heeded until now," he said.

Former minister of state of Bagmati provincial government, Santa Bahadur Chepang, urged the state to become proactive in allocating a budget for the protected area for protecting the rights of the Chepang community and expanding their access to state services.

The assembly held for two days on Friday and Saturday passed a 25-point declaration along with various demands.

Among the demands included in the declaration are making arrangements for residential hostel in the secondary schools up to class 12 run in the Chepang community, permanent resettlement of Chepangs residing at Kusumkhola of Madi Municipality-9, providing land-ownership papers for the land that is tilled and used by the Chepangs and making provisions for free health insurance along with cost-free medical treatment and medicines for the Chepang people.

Highlighting the Article 56 of Constitution that states that "any special, protected, or autonomous region can be set up by Federal law for social, cultural protection, or economic development," the association’s president stressed the need for collaborative efforts from the three-tier government to protect areas with Chepang settlements. He urged the government to declare the region inhabited by the Chepang community as a specially protected zone.

Furthermore, he called for official recognition of the Nwagi (Chhonam Lhosar) festival, traditionally observed by the Chepang community on Bhadra 22 as per the Nepali calendar, as a national festival. Expressing concerns about the nationalization of forest areas used by the Chepang people, he advocated for ensuring the community's access to forests and the removal of 'discriminatory laws' affecting the Chepang people and other excluded communities.

The association also requested the government to introduce various income-generating programs specifically targeting the Chepang population, highlighting the need to reduce dependency on the State for financial support. The President Govindaram Chepang expressed concerns over haphazard operations of quarry industries, posing a risk of displacing the Chepang people and depriving them of their land rights.

Chepang is recognized as one of the indigenous communities by the state, predominantly residing in the surrounding areas of the Mahabharat mountain range. The western part of Makwanpur, the northern part of Chitwan, and the southern region of Dhading feature the dense settlements of Chepang, according to the association. The Chepang settlements also exist in Gorkha, Tanahun, and Lamjung.

According to the national census of 2078 BS (2021), the Chepang community is dispersed across 26 districts in Nepal, with a total population of 84,364.


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