KATHMANDU, Nov 3: Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ishwar Pokharel said on Saturday that the government will take back public lands that have been encroached upon over the decades through various means. Speaking after the inaugurating a public park at Dhumbarai in the capital, he said the government was scouring public lands across the country and it would now reassert control over such land.
Pokharel said that the government was counting on the support of locals across the country for finding lost public land and bringing it into public use. He also urged the local bodies to exercise control over public land in their jurisdictions.
“Local bodies and the local people should work together to find the lands that have been encroached on. Public property can be saved only through active public participation,” he said, adding that the government was working on plans to layout public parks and gardens on such land.
Pokharel’s announcement on retrieving public lands comes at a time when the government is increasingly under fire for failing to go after the rich and powerful who have managed to transfer public lands to their names.
More than a dozen politicians including General Secretary of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, Bishnu Poudel, has been implicated in the Lalita Niwas land scam, one of the biggest of its kind. It involved the dubious transfer of land adjoining the prime minister’s official residence at Baluwatar.
The encroachment of public lands has emerged as a serious aberration right across the country, but especially in Kathmandu Valley. It has been attributed to widespread corruption fueled by greed for real estate.
Despite repeated assurances from top officials including Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, the government has not yet taken any concrete measures to bring back encroached land.
Since the regular holding of local elections, some local bodies have been trying to reassert control over such land but with little success.
Kathmandu Metropolitan City alone has identified 500 ropanis out of 1,5,00 rapanis known to have been encroached since the 1990’s. But it has run up against claims of ownership by various individuals and businesses. According to KMC Mayor Bidhya Sundar Shakya, the city is preparing to move the courts over this matter.
With a burgeoning population, huger for land has robbed the Valley of much arable land, depleted public spaces and hindered the functionings of the numerous public and private trusts that are supported by land. More than two-thirds of the river beds have disappeared in the last three decades.
The government, meanwhile, does not have sufficient data on public lands transferred to private individuals across the country.