DOLAKHA, May 21: The government’s failure to protect Kalinchowk, a popular tourist destination in Dolakha district, has encouraged illegal encroachment of public land in the area of late.
Every year, the number of tourists visiting this scenic hill is increasing. This has opened doors for locals to expand tourism business and make good money. This is the reason why some people have started acquiring land illegally.
Apart from some land brokers, a private cable car company has also been accused of illegally encroaching the land of Kalinchowk.
The cable car company on Friday started fencing public land from Kuri Bazar to Bhagwati temple in Kalinchowk with the ill intention of acquiring a large area for personal benefit.
However, the locals objected to the company’s move and removed the poles erected for fencing. Two of the government authorities have been fighting since long for the ownership of Kalinchowk.
Taking advantage of this dispute, various groups and people have been making efforts to claim the ownership.
The Guthi Sansthan and the forest office have long been claiming their ownership in the area. On the basis of the government seal of Baishakh 14, 1886 BS, eight of the pastures in Kalinchowk fall under the Guthi Sansthan.
Meanwhile, forest office has been fighting to bring the area under its jurisdiction by stating that all pasture lands have been nationalized as per the Pasture Land Nationalization Act 1977.
Despite the growing number of tourists, rampant encroachment has belittled the mesmerizing beauty of Kalinchowk.
A private company named Kalinchowk Darshan Pvt Ltd has already started cable car service from Kuri Bazar to Bhagwati temple by signing an agreement with the Guthi Sansthan.
The company which has already completed the construction of the cable car has been pressurizing the government authorities to declare the Guthi Sansthan as the rightful owner of the land. The owner of the company, as well as local hotel entrepreneurs, are eager to take more land on lease if the government gives the ownership of the land to the Guthi. The cable car company is being operated with the investment of businessman Balkrishna Siwakoti, who is known to have close ties with the Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
Meanwhile, the cable car company has accused the locals of vandalizing its cable cars and causing the loss of around Rs 15 million on Friday. Managing Director of the company, Ashok Siwakoti, demanded stern action against those causing loss of property.
“People vandalized our cable cars when we tried to fence around 16 ropanis of land out of the total 47 ropanis we have taken on lease from the Guthi,” said Siwakoti.
According to him, the company is ready to face punishment if it has encroached the land. As per the agreement, Kalinchowk Darshan Pvt Ltd has been paying 15 paisa to 50 paisa per square meter on an annual basis for using the land. Siwakoti claimed that his company has been paying income tax as well as land lease tax to the government.
Following the dispute on Friday, a team of officials from the local administration and security personnel reached the site on Sunday. According to one of the security personnel who went for inspection, the clash erupted as the cable car company had begun fencing with the aim of encroaching more land.
Gyalbo Lama, a local, said that the company had fenced a huge chunk of public land which even prohibited them from grazing their yaks.
“The illegally erected poles and fences have been kept safely by the locals as evidence,” said Lama.
Not just the company but even the locals have occupied the public land of Kalinchowk. In five years, more than 150 houses have been illegally built in the area. Even though no effective step has been taken by the local administration yet to control the illegal encroachment, Khagendra Prasad Rijal, Chief District Officer who was recently transferred to the district said, “I have found several minutes which show the agreement signed to control the illegal acquisition of land in Kanlinchwok.”
He assured to solve the ongoing tension in Kalinchowk after holding discussion with various stakeholders.