Govt on distribution spree of national forest: Over 300 hectares of land leased out in six months

Published On: February 16, 2023 09:30 AM NPT By: Bhuwan Sharma

KATHMANDU, Feb 16: In the last six months, the government has allowed 21 private companies to use the right of way over 300 hectares of forest area. Forest area has also been allocated for cable car and cement industries.

A senior employee who has worked in the Ministry of Forest for a long time and has a degree in this field said that it is a very serious matter to give the right to  private companies to use more than 313 hectares of forest area in six months. "Through this, Nepal's commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions and to maintain 45 percent of forest area by 2045 in the United Nations Convention on Climate Change has been compromised," said the official requesting anonymity. He claimed that if the government continues to divide the forest area at this rate, a very dangerous situation will arise in the country. 

“This must be stopped. The decision to give forest area must be immediately stopped," he said.

According to the Ministry of Forest, during the period of six months from July 17, 2022 to December 18, 2022, a total of 21 projects have been allowed to use the right to occupancy of more than 313 hectares of land. The government has granted 19,907 hectares of forest area to various organizations and companies till date. In the last six months, the government has also provided land for use to cable car and cement industries. According to sources at the ministry, 50 other projects and private companies have applied to the ministry to provide land. The ministry sources claim that the process has also been started for some of these companies.

To provide the right of way for the use of forest area, at first, a decision should be made by the Council of Ministers. Before that, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) file must be passed. Ministry sources say that the EIA files of some private companies have also been passed to provide land for such rights. According to the ministry sources, the Cabinet meeting held on December 18, 2022 decided to provide 49.80 hectares of forest area to Maruti Limited in Sindhuli for occupancy rights. The Cabinet meeting held on November 6 decided to provide 13.20 hectares of forest area for the Jalpadevi cable car project in Kailali.

Similarly, on September 23, 2023 the Cabinet decided to provide 5.81 hectares of forest area to the Upper Solukhola Hydropower Project in Solukhumbu, 4.03 hectares to the Madhya Super Darodi Hydropower Project in Gorkha on September 27, 5.80 hectares to the Karuvabasti Hydropower Project in Kaski and 4.99 hectares were allocated to the Sanghukhola Hydropower Project in Dolakha on October 14.

The cabinet meeting on November 6 decided to provide 92.73 hectares to the Tanahun Hydropower Project in Tanahun, 3.00 hectares to the Super Chepe Hydropower Project in Gorkha, as well as the right of occupancy of 8.31 hectares of forest area to the Seti river hydropower project in Kaski.

Likewise, on November 6, it was decided to give 4.74 hectares to the Dudhpokhari Chepe hydropower project in Gorkha, 4.55 hectares to the Mevakhola hydropower project in Taplejung, and 4.61 hectares to a hydropower project in Myagdi. In the same way, 29 hectares were allocated to the Pikhuwa River Hydroelectric Project in Bhojpur, four hectares to the Upper Apukhola Hydropower Project in Dhading,

In addition to this, the council of ministers decided to provide 2.54 hectares to the Upper Fawa Khola Hydropower Project in Taplejung on November 6, and 20.21 hectares to the Nilgiri River Transmission Line Hydropower Project in Myagdi on December 18.

The Sections 42, 43 and 44 of Forest Act 2076BS has provision of forest area for usufruct rights. According to the law, only the projects that fall under national priorities can be provided such rights. There is a provision that only the National Planning Commission can recommend whether the project is a national priority or not. The law also states that the government can provide the forest area for projects but cannot provide the national park area.

In the Act, the responsibility of planting trees for five years on the land falls on the shoulders of the beneficiary project. The government does not take back the land provided for roads, but the forest area provided for projects like hydropower, cable car, cement industry is provided for a certain period (up to 30 years, 25 years or 35 years).

According to ministry sources, even though the Forest Act is strict to provide forest area to the private sector, the private companies who have access to it are getting forest area rights from the government against the spirit of the Forest Act.

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