Forest sub-divisions more powerful than local governments

Kathmandu, July 18

Following the Cabinet’s recent endorsement of the Ministry of Forest and Environment’s organisational structure, forest sub-divisions have now become more powerful than local governments.

There are presently 528 forest sub-divisions and 753 local bodies.

Spokesperson for the Forest and Environment Ministry Dhananjay Poudel said as per the constitutional mandate, power has been delegated on the basis of cooperative and coordinative federal structural models.

Power has been delegated among three tiers of government, including single rights and double rights among local, provincial and federal governments in the constitution.

“As per the new structures and power devolution, the local government’s recommendation will be approved by the forest divisions and sub-divisions,” an official of the ministry told The Himalayan Times.

Eighty-four division offices and 528 sub-division offices will be established within a month instead of 77 district forest offices which were scrapped yesterday. Those divisions and sub-divisions will be under the Provincial Tourism, Industry, Forest and Environment Ministry as per the new organisational structure.

There will be two division offices in some districts, including Dang, Kailali, Kapilvastu, Makawanpur and Sindhuli. The divisions will be established instead of the district forest offices and the sub-divisions will be established in place of area forest offices. The forest and environment divisions will be established in the local levels led by rangers.

According to Spokesperson Poudel, provincial ministries will establish their wings to preserve national forests. “The forest act will be enacted before new laws are endorsed. The new laws will be enacted within a month,” he said.

As per the constitutional provision, national forests will be under the provincial government, community forests will be under local governments and national parks and wildlife conservation areas will be under the federal government.

“National forests will be monitored in coordination with local governments,” Poudel said. “Roles will be allocated in such a way that there will be no overlapping among local, provincial and federal governments, which will ease implementation of federalism in the forest sector. Financial resource commission can share the revenue among three tiers of governments,” Poudel said.

The new structure has reduced the number of departments under the federal ministry. Earlier there were six departments but now there will be five departments.

However, experts said the government should clearly mention the roles of these departments under the federal ministry and other divisions under provincial governments. Forest expert Shambhu Dangal questioned what would be the roles of the departments under the federal ministry if powerful divisions and sub-divisions were there under provincial governments.

“Forest divisions and sub-divisions should be given advisory role rather than controlling power,” Dangal told THT. “The forest divisions and sub-division’s recommendation should be approved by the local governments,” he added.

The forest and shrubland area covers almost 45 per cent of total land area of the country which is five per cent higher than envisioned by the Forest Policy-2015. Of the total forest area, 67.80 per cent of forest lies in mid-mountainous area, 32.25 per cent in high mountainous area, 23.04 per cent in Chure area and 6.90 per cent in the Tarai.

According to the ministry, 23.39 per cent of the total land area has been occupied by national parks and conservation areas in the country which has helped protect thousands of species of flora and fauna and maintain ecological balance. There are 12 national parks, one wildlife reserve, one hunting reserve, six conservation areas, 13 buffer zones and 10 Ramsar sites in Nepal.

There are 118 ecosystems and 11 bio-climatic zones in Nepal and it is home to 3.2 per cent and 1.1 per cent of world’s known flora and fauna respectively.  There are 11,971 flora species and 11,861 fauna species in Nepal. Some 284 kinds of endemic flowering plants and 160 kinds of animal species are only found in Nepal.

According to the official, more than 5,000 employees will be deployed under the seven province offices which is the largest number in comparison to other ministries.