The Supreme Court has issued mandamus order to the government authorities to conserve Fewa Lake even if it requires demolishing already built illegal structures. A division bench of justices Sapana Pradhan Malla and Om Prakash Mishra issued the order to this effect passing the verdict on all writ petitions filed over the past seven years against encroachment on the lake.
This is a welcome verdict and it must be implemented without any delay. The importance of Pokhara and the Fewa Lake need no emphasis. A large number of domestic and international tourists flock to this town to see the magnificent mountains and sail around the pristine lake every year.
But this pristine lake had been facing encroachment from business people who want to make fast bucks by making hotels and restaurants—the beauty of the lake be damned. In this context, Sunday’s verdict is supremely important and just because it has ordered the authorities to demolish the structures erected on the lake’s land and pay compensation to those who built them legally. Those who have not breached the law need not fear, others who did so illegally must face the consequences. The message of the court is clear.
We have in the past few years been drawing the attention of the concerned authorities toward the mess created in the lake and demanding action against the perpetrators. Much has been already written about the actors (their names have been made public) who consistently worked to downsize the area of the lake by building illegal structures. Social activists have been launching campaigns for conservation of the scenic lake.
A study committee led by Bishwa Prakash Lamichhane had made a nine-point recommendation to the government asking among other things: to set Fewa Lake’s total area as 6,503,779.05 square meters, mark boundaries in all four directions, fixing water occupied area and recommending that Fewa Lake be declared as a national heritage site apart from preserving other lakes in the area. All calls for preservation had been virtually ignored even while the encroachers had not spared the land under the water—some 1,692 ropanis according to the report—to bring it under their possession.
Needless to say, Pokhara is Nepal’s icon city and Fewa Lake is Pokhara’s icon. Those who come to Nepal do not feel satisfied until they have visited Pokhara. The encroachment on this pristine location was thus a public offense. We are close to bringing the encroachers to book but the action must not be limited to it. All those actors—the officials and staffs of Land and Revenue office—who supported the encroachers in this nefarious activity must be brought under investigation and action should be taken against them.
Encroaching public land by those in connection with power centers has almost become a norm in Nepal. Implementing the court verdict on Fewa Lake could hopefully go a long way in deterring other land mafias and preserving Nepal’s public land. This is the beginning. Many other lands await rescue from the hands of land mafias and other unscrupulous elements.