January 28, 2019 02:00 AM NPT
Gandaki Province has formed a minister-level committee to reclaim the encroached areas of Fewa Lake as per the Supreme Court order of April, 2018. Cabinet meeting of the provincial government has formed an 11-member committee under Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment Minister Bikas Lamsal and tasked it with implementing the apex court order within six months. Back in April last year, the Supreme Court had ordered the government to demolish illegal structures built around Fewa Lake and demarcate the original area of the lake within six months of receiving the full text of the court order. The court order issued in April also called for the scrapping of private land ownership of any land falling within the original demarcation of the lake. But there had been no progress. In this context, we appreciate the efforts taken by the provincial government to reclaim the lands of Fewa from the encroachers and to restore the main attraction of Pokhara to its original state. Minister Lamsal has promised to implement the court order on a war footing. The provincial government is going to pay compensation against demolishing the legally built structures and but no such compensation will be paid for the illegally built structures. The provincial government has also initiated legislation for the preservation of Fewa Lake and allocated Rs 100 million for restoring the lake. All these are encouraging steps and they must be pursued until all land areas of the lake are freed from the hands of encroachers.
The report prepared by a study committee led by Bishwaprakash Lamichhane had determined the Fewa Lake’s total area as 6,503,779.05 square meters and set dam side in the east, Morebagar in the west and Kharpoudi-Chankhapur in the north as the boundaries of the lake. Provincial government should work as per the Lamichhane report because the Supreme Court had ordered the authorities to protect the lake on the basis of this report back in April last year. It goes without saying that Fewa Lake must be preserved if we are to promote tourism in Gandaki province. Fewa is facing the existential threat. There are legitimate concerns that if encroachment on the lake continues and the wetland is not conserved Pokhara might lose its vital tourism attraction in a few years.
Here are some caveats too. Every time some actions have been taken to free Fewa from land encroachers and land mafias, land encroachers have heavily resisted. The government of Gandaki province should be bold enough to resist all kinds of resistance, as and when they emerge. Besides, series of reports published by Republica have proven the collusion among land encroachers and officials of Land Revenue Office and Survey Office in selling out public lands to private owners. They should also be brought to book. If Gandaki Province can reclaim the lands illegally encroached by unscrupulous agents, it will go down as one of the first success stories of Gandaki Province. With strong political resolve, it won’t be difficult for the provincial government to restore Fewa to its former glory.