Community forests posing a ‘threat’ to janajatis’ livelihood

Kathmandu, September 12 :

General secretary of the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities Dr Om Gurung today said community forests have been forcing out many indigenous people, including the Chepangs and the Rautes, from their traditional jobs thus threatening their livelihood.

Addressing an interaction on “Bio-diversity and indigenous nationalities” organised by the Human Rights of Indigenous People Concern Centre (HURINPECC), Dr Gurung said that though the community forests can be a good example of forest management, it cannot be accepted as a universal model.

Citing various examples of how indigenous people have been suffering from the Community Forest Users’ Groups, he said the Federation of Community Forest Users Groups should look for ways to create an environment conducive for indigenous people to continue with their traditional works. He added that they would launch a protest against the forest groups like the Chepangs are doing.

He also said that foreign development models implemented in the country have not only displaced indigenous nationalities from their habitat, but they have also lost their traditional knowledge. “Their cultural identities have disappeared. The government and other concerned bodies should compensate them,” he said.

Dr Gurung also said the representation of indigenous nationalities should be assured in all committees formed to document their traditional practices. “This is also one of the agendas of our movement,” he said.Advocate Kunshang Lama said the traditional occupation of a large number of indigenous people has been threatened by different laws and acts formulated in the name of wild life conservation.Experts on bio-diversity said pressure should be mounted on the government to bring in laws on genetic resources.

Dr Krishna Prasad Oli of ICIMOD, Puspa Sharma of Pro-Public, Dr Mahendra Nath Subedi of the Department of Plant Resources (DPR), Maniram Banjade of Forest Action and expert Bijaya KS Danuwar, all focused on the need of a law on conservation of genetic resources. While Dr Subedi said the absence of the act has seriously hampered the conservation works being carried out by the department, Sharma said communities should be made aware of the values of their traditional practices.