Forest encroachment rampant in Jajarkot

Jajarkot, December 30

The concerned authority has remained mute though locals have been openly encroaching land of the community forest in Khalanga, Jajarkot, of late.

Locals have cleared the forest and constructed shanties near the district headquarters.

Though hundreds of shanties have been built on forest land, the District Administration, Forest Office and Community Consumers’ Committee have not objected at all.

Leaders of civil society wondered at the mysterious silence maintained by officials. “It is sad that the concerned authority has remained mum though people have openly cleared the forest,” said Heramba Bahadur Shah, head teacher at Tribhuvan Higher Secondary School Khalanga. He added that the forest was thick, green and beautiful three years ago, but it has now become ugly with new shanties and shelters,” said Shah.

“The stakeholders appear to be trying to escape responsibility saying that they will take action by following due process,” complained Keshav Jung Shah, chairperson of Civil Society.

“Forest guards of Khalanga Range Post reside near the encroached area. They pass through the same route around one dozen times a day. However, they never take any initiative to curb this activity,’ regretted Shah.

Chhabi Raj Sharma, district chairperson of Consumers’ Rights’ Conservation Forum, said the encroachment has gone on unabated due to lack of monitoring. “Especially Khalanga VDC, District Administration Office, District Forest Office and Community Forest Consumers’ Committee ought to be more responsible about curbing the encroachment,” said Sharma.

Assistant Communications Officer Radheshyam Chaudhary said more than 100 shanties and huts had already been built on encroached forest land and the trend was rising. “It is very hard to vacate settlements. Hence, we are thinking of controlling encroachment,” he said.

There are 207 community forests in the district. Many of the forests have witnessed encroachment problems. Around 400 households have been sheltering in the area according to data available in the district. However, the administration has taken no action against them.

Meanwhile, District Forest Office Chief Ram Prasad Pandit commented that it was a common trend throughout the country. He said, “An investigation panel has been formed in coordination with the chief district officer. However, the panel has not been working effectively,” he said.