SC gives govt six months to raze structures near Phewa Lake

Kathmandu, November 22

In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court has ordered the government to remove, within six months, structures built within 65 metres from the banks of Phewa Lake.

The apex court also ordered the government to build check dam within three years on the Harpan and other rivers that feed the lake to control siltation there. The SC stated this in full texts of the verdicts in cases filed by Advocate Khagendra Subedi and others against the government.

The verdicts in this and four other cases involving Phewa Lake were delivered by a division bench of justices Om Prakash Mishra and Sapana Pradhan Malla on April 29.

The SC observed that Phewa Lake was an exemplary tourist destination famous in Nepal and abroad. Its conservation was necessary not only for local residents, but also for aquatic animals, birds and endangered species of flora and fauna. The court added that in 1961 Phewa Lake covered an area of 10 square kilometres,   but in 2001, its coverage area had shrunk to 4.25 square kilometres.

The court observed that Nepal being party to Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat had the obligation to protect the lake.

The court ordered the government to determine, within six months, four boundaries of Phewa Lake as stipulated by the Lamichhane Committee, investigate within one year how much land of Phewa Lake had been encroached and reclaim the land. The court ordered the government to declare Phewa Lake protected watershed area, ensure that drainage water from nearby settlements did not flow into the lake,   prohibit people residing near the lake from using  chemical fertilisers and pesticides  on their plots of land,  control water hyacinth and formulate criteria to prevent people from building houses and hotels in the nearby areas.

Subedi has also filed a case against Karna Shakya’s Park Village Water Front Resort. The final hearing of the case is on December 20.

He has pointed out that the resort has been  built illegally on the bank of the lake.

In the second case filed by Advocate Bhagwati Pahari and others against the government, the SC quashed a memorandum of understanding signed on March 31, 2015, between the government and Manakamana Darshan Pvt Ltd to run a cable car from Basundhara Park to Bouddha Stupa of Raniban- a distance of 1,270 metres- near Phewa Lake. The SC observed that the cable car would have to pass through a wetland with endangered species of flora and fauna. The SC also ordered the government to bar construction in the area.

The SC told the government to try to list Phewa Lake in the world heritage site.

In two other cases filed by local residents against Pokhara Valley Development Authority and others, seeking lifting of the prohibition on sale and transfer of their land ownership, the court observed that the government had the power to take individual’s land into custody for protecting Phewa Lake.