Encroachment of national forest has intensified in different parts of Rautahat of late.

Massive forest encroachment has taken place in Arunbasti and Bholentar of Chandrapur, Mahadev Danda, Toribari, Ipalibasti, Fulbari and Hilekhola Paurai and places north of Mahendra Highway in Gaidatar, but as the authorities concerned are apathetic about cracking their whip, the lack of action has further emboldened encroachers.

Besides, grazing cattle and felling of trees has increased in the above mentioned areas in recent years. According to locals, smugglers were active in smuggling timber out of the forest in Arun Basti area a few days ago as well.

They have alleged that the ongoing deforestation and encroachment are happening in collusion with the forest staff of Chandrapur Division Forest Office. Encroachment has increased in a big way in the past one-and-ahalf years after the forest staff stopped their regular patrolling citing the pandemic.

"If the current pace of deforestation and encroachment of forest continues, it will not only increase the risk of natural disasters such as floods and landslides, but will also turn arable farmland into barren land in a few years," said Nepali Congress local leader Kamal Moktan.

The government spends more than 10 million rupees every year under the President Chure Conservation Programme, but in the absence of effective monitoring and other follow-up actions, the fund spent on the conservation programme has been just like pouring water into sand.

Chandrapur Division Forest Office Acting Chief Amardev Yadav claimed that his office was carrying out regular patrolling and was taking action against anyone found to be encroaching forest land and smuggling timber. "It's true that we aren't able to carry out patrolling as in the past, but this is because of lack of staff," he said.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 20 2021, of The Himalayan Times.