Community forest falls prey to squatters amid ongoing blame game

Biratnagar, December 23:

Rangeli Community Forest along the Nepal- India border is in the verge of being destroyed since locals are cutting down the forest to build houses for settlement in the forest area.

The forest which spread for 11 hectares has now been cut down to 5 hectares after people began deforesting and erecting huts on a regular basis, a Rangeli VDC local said. About 500 huts have already been built in the forest area till now.

The forest Consumers’ Committee said they were unable to stop the deforestation due to the lack of support from the police administration.

Meanwhile, the police blames the consumers’ committee and political parties for the cause of deforestation. Inspector Milan Bhattarai of the area Police Office of Rangeli said it would be very difficult only for the police administration to stop such kind of activities.

Consumers’ committee of the forest has been run by several committees over the past 4 years. It began after a corruption case was filed against the consumers’ committee presided by Bijaya Sharma four years ago.

District Forest Office Morang then had deactivated the committee and formed an ad hoc committee for deforestation under the presidency of Sokhilal Mandal 4 years ago.

Since then, many committees for many tasks were formed only to give rise to deforestation and land encroachment. A legal elected committee could not be formed till now due to the politicisation of it. Meanwhile a member of the current committee, Shankar Shah said the community forest would be handed over to a legal committee after holding elections within few days.

All the money collected by selling timber has not been deposited to the committee due to the lack of resumption of a legal committee.