KAILALI, May 123: In September last year, the provincial assembly of Sudurpaschim Province decided to set up its capital in the Teghari forest located in Godawari Municipality of Kailali. The decision sparked controversy and was widely criticized by forest and environment conservationists.
Associated with the popular religious and tourism site of Godawari, Teghari falls under the Chure range. Similarly, the province also sanctioned a budget for a biodiversity trail, which will stretch from Bramhhadev of Kanchanpur to Chisapani of Kailali.
Of late, even the local governments have started channeling the provincial government. The local units in the province, too, have established their ward offices, stadiums and various halls by exploiting and encroaching upon the community and national forests. For example, Gauriganga Rural Municipality of Kailali has been rampantly establishing its ward offices by encroaching upon forests.
Khadak Saud, a local who is a former member of the erstwhile District Development Committee, says the local representatives and government officials have been constructing buildings in community forests for various purposes without thinking about the consequences. “In a bid to pocket huge amounts of commission, the local representatives have started eying forest land of late,” said Saud, adding, “This is wrong.”
Saud informed Republica that the under-construction building of a ward office in Andaiya, Gauriganga Municipality-5, is also being built in a national forest area. “Ignoring the repeated pleas of the locals, the elected representatives are continuing their exploitation drive,” said Saud, adding, "Even though many people had agreed to provide land for the ward office, the ward chief refused their proposals and decided to construct the building on the forest land.”
Meanwhile, Mohammad Taha Hussain, assistant forest officer of the Sub-division Forest Office, Masuriya, said that the office dispatched letters to various wards on April 30, asking them not to build their office buildings by encroaching upon forests. “We have already told them not to do so. If they still ignore our request, we will have to take legal action against them,” said Hussain.
Not only ward 5 but also wards 7 and 3 of the rural municipality were given the same direction as they, too, are constructing their office buildings in the forest area. Ramchandra Kandel, forest officer of the Division Forest Office, Dhangadhi, says various organizations and local units have been encroaching upon forest areas of late. “However, we have warned them not to continue their projects by destroying forests,” said Kandel.
On the other hand, mayor of Gauriganga, Bhim Bahadur Deuba claimed that the local unit has not encroached upon the forest area but is establishing its ward offices after agreements with the locals.