RAJBIRAJ, Oct 6: In a bid to stop the rampant excavation in Chure and to save forest resources, the District Forest Office (DFO), Saptari, had banned the extraction of materials in 1km area of the Chure range and the forests there. Despite pressure from the District Development Committee, contractors and various other sectors, the DFO had strictly prohibited the extraction of limestone, stones and other resources from Chure and the adjoining forests. However, stating that the ban imposed by the DFO is illegal, Saptakoshi Municipality of the district has announced to allow extraction of materials from the rivers, which fall within the border of the municipality. This decision has sparked a controversy now.
On Wednesday, when forest officials tried to stop some people from extracting and loading sand collected from Maleth River of Saptakoshi-11 on a tractor, a group of representatives tried to chase away the officials. "When we saw them illegally extracting and loading the sand from within the forest area, we tried to stop them," said one of the forest officials, adding, "But we had to back off as dozens of people including the representatives tried to chase us away."
A team led by Biswanath Baitha, chief of Sector Forest Office, Kanchapur, had reached the site to prevent illegal excavation but in vain. On September 29, the municipality held a meeting and made a decision to open all the rivers and streams within the local unit for extraction.
The team from the Sector Forest Office, Kanchanpur and Balardaha Ranger Post, Maleth tried to stop the activity stating it is against the Forest Act. According to Narayan Acharya, ward chief of Saptakoshi-1, local units can make decisions regarding local rivers, ponds and streams as per the Local Governance Act 2017. He also accused the DFO of following the policies of Forest Act 1993. "We are just trying to utilize the locally available natural resources which can boost our economy," said Acharya.
The new act states that the province will be responsible for determining the tax of construction materials and municipalities and rural municipalities will be collecting it. Province 2, however, has not been able to make any decision regarding this. A few weeks ago, the province publicized a notice urging the local units not to impose tax on these resources until province formulates rules and policies on this.
District Forest Officer Birendra Prasad Singh informed Republica that the Forest Act 1993 has strictly forbidden the extraction of materials from 1 km area of forest and Chure range. DFO will be following the old act until the new act comes into effect, he said, adding that discussions are being held with Mayor of Saptakoshi, chief district officer of Saptari and other stakeholders to find a solution to this.