DAILEKH, Aug 8: Clearing the forest for the 900 MW Upper Karnali Hydropower Project has faced obstruction from the locals despite getting green signal from the council of ministers on August 15, 2017.
The locals of Dailekh and Achham have obstructed the clearance which started one year after the decision was made and needs to be completed within a year.
The locals obstructed the forest clearance works asking for a guarantee of compensation and completion of the project when employees from the Forest Office, Project Office and Forest Consumers Committee tried to clear the trees marked previously for felling. The clearance was started for two community forests of Dailekh and three of Achham which lie in the project area. Final paper works were done for the felling of 26,633 trees which covered 131 hectares in Achham and 121 hectares in Dailekh. If the clearance works are not completed within another year, the process for obtaining the permission will have to be started again.
Expressing his anger toward the hollow promises of compensation for the locals who will have their source of firewood and fodder for their livestock destroyed by the clearance, Datta Bahadur Thapa, a local said, “There is sign of compensation for the locals. The project is just been trying to work for their personal benefit.”
He added that there should be a guarantee of completion of the project if the clearance has to be started. Thapa said, “If the project will only be completed after 20 years, why should we give away our source of firewood and fodder for livestock now?”
Bal Bahadur Shahi, another local from the area affected by the project cited an example of clearance of 56 trees for the construction of a bridge five years ago. The construction works for the bridge is yet to be completed. “The bridge is yet to be completed. If the project is not completed for another 10 years, where will we find a substitute for our daily needs?” he said.
Shahi further questioned, “What rights does the District Forest Office have for giving permission to GMR Group to clear the forests when it filed a case of corruption against a local for felling 17 trees for the construction of a house after paying royalty to the community forest?”
According to the forest consultant for the project Rajendra Gyawali, the forest clearance will take one year to complete. “The clearance will not be completed on time if it is obstructed,” he said.