Homework begins to build Province 7 capital on forest land

DHANGADHI: Homework has begun to develop infrastructure for the permanent capital of Province 7 by clearing out forest area in Kailali district.

It has been learnt that discussions have begun among ministers and high level officials of the province to clear forests situated in Godawari Municipality in the district to build infrastructure for province capital.

The discussions were carried out to clear one of the community forests located in Geta, Attariya or Chaukidanda areas of Godawari Municipality to construct the physical infrastructure.

"An unofficial meeting was carried out at the residence of former minister Lekh Raj Bhatta with regards to building infrastructure for province capital in one of the three or four community forest areas situated in Godavari Municipality," informed a leader who had participated in the meeting.

According to him, discussions were carried out to build the capital in one of the forest areas — Butyan forest area in the northern side of Geta, Chaukidanda forest area in Attariya-Mahendranagar Highway section, the northern forest area close to Attariya Bazaar, or the forest area adjacent to Godawari Dham.

He further informed that the unofficial meeting was attended by the mayors of Godawari and Gauriganga municipalities, chairpersons of the municipal development committee of Godawari and Dhangadhi. It has further been learnt that many leaders present at the meeting suggested that developing the capital inside jungle area would be unsuitable as well as tedious.

It was suggested at the meeting that destroying forest to build the infrastructure would not be a favourable idea and that the act might encourage other groups who have been destroying forests to illegally trade in land. Alternatively, they suggested building the province capital infrastructure via land acquisition or on government-owned land.

Though the province government has not responded on this matter officially, social development minister of the province Dirgha Sodari had mentioned at a public programme that the province capital would be developed in Attariya area. Other high level officials of the province government have also said that search is going on for land to construct the province capital.

One of the high level officials of the province government said, "As per common proposition, we have requested to develop the infrastructure in government land or by acquiring private land as an alternative to clearing forests. This is a political decision and therefore the government would take necessary decision."

However, leader Lekh Raj Bhatta refuted there being any talks regarding the the matter. "I do not have any information on this subject," said Bhatta, adding that the local media must have carried the news on the basis of projection.

He added, "Discussions have not taken place regarding the area over which the capital infrastructure would be built upon. Some leaders had approached the subject, upon which it was only mentioned that the said area would be appropriate from security point of view, and nothing more." He also informed that he had mentioned to the chief minister of the province and other stakeholders that discussions would have to begin on the issue.

The jungle area under consideration for developing province capital infrastructure fall under the Mohana Corridor, which is considered important forest region. Chair of the Community Forest Coordination Committee, Mohana, Raj Bahadur Aire said, capital must not be developed inside the forest area when there are other alternatives.

"We have been making efforts towards conservation of the forest within the Mohana Corridor which lies at the base of the Chure hills. Forest area cannot be an option for the capital. If the forests in this area are to be destroyed, then the adjoining Tarai area will fall under great risk. Opting to clear the forest despite having other options for the capital would be unwise," Aire said.

Meanwhile, community forests have already been destroyed before this in the area proposed for the province capital. District Forest Officer Navaraj Kafle said that he received information about forest areas in Godavari Municipality being encroached upon.

"The problem of forest encroachment is not being solved due to lack of political interest in the matter. People's representatives, after the local level elections, should have been serious in this matter," he said, "the District Forest Office is working towards preventing such encroachment on forest land."