Government all set to launch project

KATHMANDU: At the time when the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation is planning to launch the newly declared Gaurishankar Conservation Area, the Federation of Community Forest Users' Nepal (FECOFUN) is busy directing community users to boycott the government programme next month.

"We are against the government decision to declare the conservation area as the government has not taken prior consent of the communities before declaring the same and as such, we will boycott every programme/effort of the government in this regard," Bhola Bhattarai, the FECOFUN General secretary said today.

The MoFSC had proposed Gaurishankar and Api Nampa as conservation areas, while the Cabinet announced the same in a meeting held on December 4 at Kalapatthar, Everest Base Camp.

"There were discussions among stakeholders that the conservation area will not affect the rights of the communities; as such, community user groups should not worry about their rights," Minister for Forest Deepak Bohara said.

There are over 15,000 community forest user groups in the country who have been demanding a halt to declaration of national parks and conservation areas. They are saying that government-controlled forests restrict the rights of the community on natural resources.

"Only 22 percent of the total forest has been handed over to the communities till now, while the remaining is still under the government, but recent practices on community forests have clearly shown that conservation without handing over the ownership to communities has not been not successful," Bhattarai said. "Given this fact, the government should review its decision," he added.

The community user group has taken the government move as a deliberate effort to curb the rights of the community, while the government has consistently been denying the allegation.

"There is no need to control the rights of the community in a conservation area. We have declared the same with a good intention of promoting conservation, while communities' right to benefit from the natural resources will not be curtailed," Bohara said.

The Gaurishankar Conservation Area project will be officially launched next month.

The MoFSC has entrusted the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) with the management of the area. NTNC is presently managing the Annapurna conservation area, which focuses on eco-tourism promotion with the involvement of the community.

"The model has been successful and is one of the best models used in conservation area management and we are replicating it on Gaurishankar," said Dr Siddhartha Bajracharya, Executive Officer of NTNC.

According to the ministry, Norwegian minister for Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim, will attend the formal launching programme of the Gaurishankar project.

"During talks with him, the minister expressed deep concern over the the conservation sector's shape while Norway is interested in helping conservation activities in Gaurishankar," Bohara added.