Godawari area, where the Far West Province government has decided to establish its capital, is home to a wide range of species of flora and fauna and is an integral part of the Chure Range, environmentalists claim.
DHANGADHI, Oct 1: Some residents of the Far West Province are not happy with the government’s decision to choose Godawari as the province’s permanent capital. They have accused the government of being directed forest mafias who are plotting to destroy forest in the area by shifting the capital from Dhangadi to Godawari. After the provincial assembly on Friday named Godawari as the provincial capital, protests have been intensified.
Godawari is rich in jungles and wildlife. Dudhwa National Park of India, Suklafanta Wild Life Reserve, Laljhadi, and Teghari are connected and part of Chure wildlife ecosystem. The region is home to thousands of wild life species. Conservationists warn that establishing capital in Godawari can affect the ecosystem, which also acts as a wildlife corridor.
“If the capital is established in Godawari, in some years it will be transformed into a concreted jungle. Infrastructures will gradually grow and forests will gradually decline,” warned a former District Forest Officer, Ramesh Chand. “It is a wildlife corridor. We should conserve it. It is a very serious issue.”
He claimed that such a move would deeply affect the whole ecosystem in the region, including deforestation, and drying of water sources. Such resources are already under strain due to expansion of towns in the area, he said.
“We are already suffering from the consequences of Chure destruction. Many parts in the tarai region have been adversely affected due to this. That should serve as a lesson to learn for all of us.,” he said. Chand added that Dhangadi, since it already has a lot of infrastructures, should be the capital.
According to experts, wildlife in the hills and in the plains moves through the corridor for several reasons. Beer, deer, leopard, jackal and wolf, among other wild animals keep changing their habitat through the corridor.
“Also because it is the international corridor, it has higher importance. We should not touch the corridor for any reason,” said Chand. “Similarly, destroying the jungles is a nice way to destroy water sources. So, we have to be careful while taking such decisions,” he added.
Geologist and Associate Professor at the Doti Multiple College, Dilananda Joshi is also of the opinion that turning Godawari to capital is an unwise idea. He claims that the idea is ‘suicidal.’
“There are many options for the province’s capital. Why should we opt for a place which is of highest priority in terms of environment?” he questions. “The Chure area is already at risk. Some of its environment has already been damaged. Once destroyed, we won’t be able to restore its environmental balance. But we can act wise now and save whatever is in our hands,” Joshi added. The provincial government is planning to destroy 350 hectors of forest in Teghari area for building infrastructure for the province’s capital. The Provincial Assembly on Friday passed the decision. However, the decision has faced public outcry.
“Destroying such massive swaths of forest is not advisable. The government did not consult with all stakeholders before taking the decision,” Joshi said. “Geologists and environmentalists should have been asked for their opinion,” he added.
Godawari is the base of the Chure and the destruction of the forest there will invite disaster, according to Joshi. Erecting concrete buildings at Godawari is likely to trigger even earthquake, he warned.
“This is a very sensitive zone. If we are not able to prevent deforestation here and if we allow the construction of tall buildings in the area, we should not be surprised with disasters in the future. Not just floods and landslides, the area will become prone to even earthquakes in the future,” Joshi said.
Locals who have been protesting against the decision of the government have warned that they will further intensify agitation if their voice is not heard. “We don’t want tall infrastructures and quarters for the ministers here. We want the jungle safe,” said Hari Regmi of Dhangadi Civil Society Struggle Committee.
Environmentalist and Associate Professor at the Far Western University, Tarka Raj Joshi, shared similar views. Since Chure region is an important source for ground water, the land and jungles should be safe, he argued.
“If we tamper with the sensitive zone, we will be in a great danger. If we mess up with the environment, we will invite disaster,” he said. He added that the government must review its decision.
Lok Raj Bista, Professor of geography at the Kailali Multiple Collage warned that destroying the jungle would turn the tarai region into a desert.
“Look at the land. Look at its form, sensitivity. This land should never be chosen for building something like the capital of a province. The land is not suitable for this,” he said. “Tomorrow such a move will become very costly for all of us,” he added.
The list of experts opposing the decision is very long. They are stressing on the need to conserve the Godawari area, the base of the Chure range. Meanwhile, Madanraj Sharma, president of the consumers’ committee of Teghari community forest expressed dissatisfaction over the ‘insensitive’ decision of the government. “We have been protecting the jungle with a great passion and concern. However, the government has suddenly decided to destroy it. It is very sad,” he said.