Forest Act a hurdle to distribution of land ownership certificates to squatters
March 16, 2023 06:30 PM NPT
By: Arjun Oli
NEPALGUNJ, March 16: The process of distribution of land ownership certificates to landless squatters, landless Dalits and unsettled residents in the Kohalpur Municipality area has been stopped. Srawan Kumar Yadav, chairman of the National Land Commission, Banke, said that the process to distribute land ownership certificates had reached the final stage but it was stopped abruptly after the forest office did not agree to the process.
According to him, the final work for the distribution of land ownership certificates was going on in Ward No. 1 of Kohalpur Municipality.
“Even after issuing a 15-day notice, the forest office stopped the unstoppable work for the distribution of land ownership certificates,” Yadav informed Republica, “We were preparing to provide land ownership certificates according to the Land Act 2076 (Amendment), the forest office did not agree to the distribution according to the Forest Act 2076 (Amendment).”
He said that the forest office did not agree to the land ownership certificate distribution even if such certificates can be issued as per the Land Act 2076 and the National Land Commission, Procedures 2078, if one has used a piece of land and made a living out of it for 10 years.
There is a plan to distribute land ownership certificates to 150 households in Ward No. 1 of Kohalpur in the first phase. After that, the commission is preparing to distribute land ownership certificates to another 1,200 households.
As the forest office intervened in the process at the last moment and did not agree to it, the land ownership certificate distribution work has been uncertain. Ashok Pokhrel, an expert member of the Land Commission, Banke, said that the distribution of land ownership certificates was postponed when the forest office agreed to all other decisions and finally did not agree to the decision to give certificates. “It seems that this kind of forest problem will also occur in other local units in Banke district. For this, the government needs to take a policy decision,” he said.
After completing all the procedures in Ward No. 1 of Kohalpur, the commission is ready to distribute land ownership certificates. Similarly, Ward No. 2 is yet to be included in the process. Similarly, land surveying work is going on in Ward No. 10 and 12, while preparations for a survey are being made in Ward No. 5 and 8.
Similarly, it is said that the process of proceeding with the assessment in Ward No. 3, 9, 11, 13, 14 and 15 has been completed. However, in the Forest Act, the classification of the government-allocated land in this ward is mentioned as forest area land.
Mayor Purna Prasad Acharya of Kohalpur Municipality said that while the work of some wards has reached the final stage, the work of land ownership certificate distribution has been stopped due to the Forest Act. “The commission represents the forest office in the process of land ownership certificate distribution, the work of land ownership certificate distribution was stopped because of the Ministry of Forest,” he said, “We have reached out to the forest minister of the province for facilitation. It is also said that the Forest Act and the Land Act contradict each other.”
He said that when all the preparations were completed on their part, the land ownership certificate distribution was stopped due to lack of agreement from the forest office. According to him, more than 16,000 files of landless squatters, Dalit squatters and unorganized residents have been registered within Kohalpur Municipality.
Ajeet Kumar Karn, head of District Forest Office, Banke, said that the problem has arisen due to the contradiction of the Forest Act and the Land Act. “Those who live in the forest area are called encroachers, no one can register the land in the forest area, if it is registered, it is automatically canceled,” said Karn, “It is encroachment, the Forest Act prohibits surveying whether it is old or new.” He says that it is not only for the district but also for the country as a whole. He added, “The land commission has sent a written official letter. The problem should be addressed politically. The Forest Act has to be amended.”
Chairman of the Land Commission, Banke, Yadav says that efforts will be made to find a way out of the meeting. “We will try to find a way out to solve the problem through an all-round and all-party meeting. If we cannot find a way out, we will move forward according to the Land Act, because the Land Act came later than the Forest Act.”
The Land Commission, Banke, has also started work in other local units of Banke. Among the total eight local units in Banke, Duduwa Rural Municipality has not signed an agreement with the Commission, Pokhrel, an expert member, said. “The entry work has been completed in all local units that have signed an agreement with the commission,” he said.