Wildlife conservation act a barrier to development: Madi locals

CHITWAN: People of Madi as well as stakeholders said the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1973) was a barrier to the development of Madi area, considered a remote part of Chitwan.

Stakeholders complained that the Act has multiple ‘unnecessary’ provisions which hamper local development endeavours. According to them several projects meant for the development of Madi were in limbo due to the ‘unfriendly’ Act.

The deadline (two-year) for the construction project of the 15.2 km road from Riu Bridge of Bankatta to Pariukhola, Devendrapur ends next month, but Chitwan National Park has already directed the local government not to implement the project citing the environment impact assessment issue. Works related to building boundaries and developing sewage, however, have already been carried out.

“Around a dozen projects have remained incomplete as contractors are not in a position to continue them due to the ‘unfavourable’ Act,” said Madi Municipality Mayor Thakur Prasad Dhakal.  The construction of the 7.8 km Jeevanpur-Bagai Bus Park road has been impeded due to the same cause.

The CNP has already issued directives to the authority concerned to stall 11 bridge construction projects.

Mayor Dhakal’s allegation is that the park administration just wants to delay the pace of development in Madi in the name of EIA and other international provisions. He said, “It has been demanding the EIA for construction of grassland on the banks of the Riu River.”

“The Park does not allow anyone to extract aggregates from the rivers and mines in our area,” said Dhakal, adding that no development work could be carried out without paying royalty to the Park. He said the Act related to National Parks and Wildlife Conservation should be rewritten incorporating the demands of Madi folks.

“If the hindrance is to continue till December this year, we will resort to agitation, warned Dhakal, claiming that they were trying to obstruct development work in the name of Environmental Impact Assessment.

Likewise, Bharatpur-Madi-Thori Postal Highway Stakeholder Committee president Shyam Bista said the park had created issues on all development projects after Madi was declared a buffer zone. The buffer zone stretches from Sauraha to the Rapti River bank in Meghauli. Asserting that rules and regulations have been imposed on Madi folks, he questioned, “EIA was not needed for the buffer zone but only for us. What kind of rule is this?”

CNP Chief Conservation Officer Bed Kumar Dhakal said big development projects could not be initiated without the EIA as per the instructions of Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and the UNESCO.

Dhakal admitted that development works were delayed in Madi due to the tendency of giving contracts without meeting the basic criteria and conditions.

Stating that talks were ongoing for the amendment of the Act, he said that there was no way the talks at the warden level could help with amendment of the Act.

According to him, excavation of aggregates was halted for two months in view of the mating seasons for alligators. “Approval was issued to build Madi Bridge on the condition that a bio passage would be built for animals, but we have received instruction not to construct the bridge without EIA.”