POKHARA, June 29: The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the Pokhara Metropolitan City (PMC) not to immediately implement the decision to reduce the demarcation standards of the lakes in Pokhara, including Phewa Tal. The SC has issued an interim order not to immediately implement the decision of the PMC to reduce the standards.
The 55th executive meeting of the PMC held on Wednesday, March 29, had decided to reduce the demarcation standards of all the nine lakes in Pokhara, including Phewa Tal. The demarcation standard set for Phewa Tal, a tourist destination, was reduced from 65 meters to 30 meters; similarly, that of Begnas and Rupa Tal was reduced from 100 meters to 55 meters. The standard of other small lakes Dipang, Gunde, Maidi, Khaste and Neureni were also reduced from 100 meters to 20 meters.
However, advocates Khagendra Subedi, Sarojnath Pyakurel, Krishna Hari Khadka and Dipendra Prasad Ghimire filed a writ petition at the SC on May 25 against the decision of the metropolitan city office. The SC, after hearing the writ petition that sought the dismissal of the decision — on Monday ordered not to implement the changes to the standards immediately.
In regards to the writ petition filed against the Pokhara Metropolitan City and Office of Municipal Executive Kaski, Mayor of Pokhara Metropolitan City, Pokhara Valley City Development Committee, Lake Conservation and Development Authority Pokhara, Advocate Khagendra Subedi said that the bench of Supreme Court justices Ishwor Khatiwada and Til Prasad Shrestha ordered on Monday to not allow any construction within the space specified by the previous demarcation standards until the final verdict of the case. The writ petition mentions that the opposition inflicted very serious and irreparable damage on Phew Tal by taking the decision to reduce the demarcation standard.
On April 29, 2018, the apex court had given the federal, state and local level governments the responsibility to demarcate, map and enhance the beauty of Phewa Tal. The SC had ordered the authorities to demarcate Phewa Tal with four forts and produce a map of it within six months. Even after three years of the Supreme Court’s order, none of the lakes, including Phewa Tal, has been demarcated or mapped. But last April, the metropolis, to influence voters in the last local elections, set new demarcation standards reducing the spaces around the lakes that are meant to be left vacant.
In 2008, ‘Phewa Tal Demarcation and Mapping Committee’ led by Bishwa Prakash Lamichhane recommended that the government prevent any transactions of lands that fall within the 65-meter periphery of the lake. The report prepared by the committee revealed that 1,692 ropanis of land near Phewa Tal had been registered in the names of various individuals. The committee recommended the government revoke the land ownership certificates of 950 such individuals. But local landowners say that it would be unfair to give up their land ownership certificate.
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in 2001, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in 1996, had submitted a study report to the government suggesting that the Phewa Tal lake had been encroached upon. However, the suggestions on those reports were not implemented.
Various study reports indicate that the area of Phewa Tal is about 4.2 square kilometers. The area of Phewa Tal decreased from 10 sq km in 1960/61 to 6 sq km in 1973/74, 4.43 sq km in 1994/95 and 4.25 sq km in 1999/2000 to 4.2 sq km in 2006/07. There has been no official measurement since then.
The Phewa Tal Conservation and Management Office, asserting that the demarcation standards had been violated, had prepared a report regarding a few individuals that had built structures near the lake. According to a study by Pokhara Metropolitan City, 217 people had built infrastructures around the lake violating the demarcation standard. The report claims that many temporary and permanent structures have been built within the space meant to be left vacant.
Last September, PMC took initiatives to prepare a report on the current situation of Phewa Tal with the help of the District Survey Office, Kaski. The report states that about 1,000 ropanis of land have been encroached upon and 500 physical and permanent structures have been built within the space that should have been left vacant.