April 18, 2018 02:00 AM NPT
Encroachment on Fewa Lake
We have been drawing the attention of concerned authorities to take action against actors who have encroached upon Fewa Lake and built structures like hotels and restaurants illegally, thus making the biggest tourist attraction of Nepal’s lake city not only polluted but also ugly. Back in August last year, Republica published the list of people that included ‘prominent’ names like Karna Shakya, hotelier Piyush Bahadur Amatya and surgeon Jagadish Lal Baidya, who had encroached on Fewa’s wetland area and erected illegal structures threatening very existence of the lake. Then in September, Environment Protection Committee of the Parliament had directed the government to take major steps for protection of Fewa Lake. The issue had been raised in the parliament as well with lawmakers strongly urging the government to do something to stop lake encroachment but in vain.
In this context, annual report released by Office of Auditor General should serve as clarion call for the government to take urgent action against all those who have defaced the lake city, the crown of attraction and major source of tourism development for Province 4. The report has confirmed that 1,692 ropanis of land at Fewa Lake has been encroached and registered in the names of private individuals. Besides, it also states that 17.06 percent of wetlands in the tourist town have been encroached. Some 673 individuals have registered encroached land in their names. OAG has rightly reminded that past recommendation for scrapping such registration should be implemented immediately. The government must take OAG’s recommendation seriously and start action without any delay. This is an extremely serious issue for various studies have warned that the lake would vanish after 75 to 100 years if the encroachment spree is not checked on time. Apart from those who have grabbed public land for personal benefits, every official involved in abetting this offense should be brought to book. Given the political will, this should not be the tough job because Land Survey Act (1963) clearly states that if any public lands are encroached on by individuals or private firms these should be registered under public ownership after survey.
This disturbing finding comes at a time when we are talking about attracting more and more tourists to Nepal. Pokhara is the most visited site—perhaps second only to Kathmandu—in Nepal. It will be a major source of revenue for Province 4 when construction of International Airport will be completed. Ministry of Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation today is led by promising leader Rabindra Adhikari. He has vowed to take action against the encroachers to restore beauty of Fewa Lake. We remind him not to back down from this promise. Past attempts to free encroached land had failed due to resistance from big nexus of encroachers. They might resist this time as well. Tourism minister must not bow down to any pressure—whosoever it may come from. If he can accomplish this vital task, it will go down as a first success story of his tenure in tourism ministry.