Lamachaur Dalits turn barren hill into lush green forest

Rishi Baral

Pokhara, May 7:

Five years ago, it was a deforested hill. Now, it has turned into a lush green forest.

The hill, which was handed over to a Dalit community five years ago, got a new lease of life due to hard work and relentless dedication of 62 Dalit families of Lamachaur.

The efforts of the Dalit community have been recognised, too. The Federation of Community Forests (Kaski) recently chose the Bhumi Pujne Tisdhunge Community Forest as the best-managed community forest from among 300 community forests of the district. Impressed by the success of the Dalit people in conserving the forest, the District Forest Office (DFO), which provided 1,600 saplings to them last year, has decided to give different species of saplings to the community each year.

Before the handover of the forest, the so-called upper caste people had barred the Dalits from using the resources of the forest, though they had worked hard in conserving it.

So much so that they had to fight a case in court to be able to use the resources of the forest.

“They (the upper-caste people) did not allow us to use the forest resources because of our caste, but we won our right,” says BPTCF chairman Mukti Prasad BK, adding: “We even had to fight a case in court to be able to use the forest resources.” “The upper-caste people did not even allow us to till their land because we were fighting a case against them.”

With the forest covered with trees like Uttis, Sisau, Amriso, and bamboo, the Dalit people no longer have to go to faraway forests to collect firewood, timber, fodder, and grass.

Bindu BK, vice-chairperson of the BPTCF, says, “We distribute timber among ourselves and cut grass thrice a year.”

Each member of the community forest has to pay Rs 100 to the forest guard for a load of timber and grass. The committee pays Rs 1,500 to the guard as salary every month.