EDITORIAL: Lake at stake

Court order to protect Phewa Lake is a welcome move, as the water body has for long been bearing the brunt of rapid urbanisation and encroachment

Phewa Lake, one of the major tourist attractions and a key watershed area, has lost its vastness over the years, thanks to rapid urbanisation and continued encroachment. According to an aerial survey and field verification carried out in 1959, the fresh water lake in Pokhara of the Pokhara Valley that includes Pokhara city and parts of Sarangkot and Kaskikot was spread over 20,000 hectares of area. But the lake has shrunk to 8,000 hectares of land, as encroachment has continued unabated over the years. The shrinkage and rising pollution has resulted in rapid decline of its flora and fauna. Stakeholders have long been saying that the future of Phewa Lake has been at stake. Amid this, the Supreme Court has come to the rescue of Phewa – the jewel of the Lake City.

The apex court on Sunday ordered the government to annul illegal registration of Phewa Lake land as stated in the Bishwa Prakash Lamichhane-led commission’s report. The bench ordered the government to implement the recommendations made in schedules 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Lamichhane-led commission. The commission, which was formed during the Baburam Bhattarai-led government, had reported that registration of 3,341 ropanis of land around the lake was illegal and that it should be annulled. The commission had made two recommendations – that registration of some land plots (672) around the lake be annulled without paying compensation and that some land plots (354) be acquired for the protection of the lake by paying compensation to the owners. The SC intervention is a welcome move. There was an urgent need to address the problems surrounding Phewa Lake.

The encroachment of Phewa Lake first started in 1978-79 with the connivance of government officials. As Pokhara, the most favoured tourist destinations in Nepal, went through rapid urbanisation, construction of infrastructure projects, especially hotels and restaurants, picked up pace. Entrepreneurs took advantage of weak laws and regulations, and soon the area around the lake was dotted with buildings and structures. Though there is a provision that no structures can be built within the 65 metres range from the edge of the lake, it has been found to have been flouted. And there was migration of people from rural to urban areas, which also put extra pressure on the lake. It’s not that concerns were not raised about the lake bearing the brunt of encroachment and pollution, but no tangible action has been taken to protect the land. Some efforts were made in the past to protect the lake, but with negligible results. Phewa Lake is a vital natural resource rich in flora and fauna. It supports the livelihoods of thousands of people living around the periphery. Now that the apex court has issued an order to protect the land around Phewa Lake, the government should immediately activate the concerned agencies to save the water body which has been included in the Ramsar list of wetlands. The Pokhara-Lekhnath Metropolitan City also needs to act urgently to check encroachment and weed out illegal structures and beautify Phewa Lake, as it will not only save the lake but also protect the flora and fauna and support the livelihoods of people.

Database of crimes

Nepal Police is gearing up to create digital recording of all crimes in the Crime and Criminal Information System (CCIS) database. The Crime Investigation Department (CID) at Nepal Police Headquarters is working for digital recording of old data in computers from various work stations. The CCIS has so far recorded 323,155 criminal cases in its database from across the country. The CCIS functions as a central criminal database which provides all police units with instant and direct access to criminal information to identify any absconding suspect or convict. It will also provide information about a person after doing time in jail or those released on a bail.

Once the database comes into force the concerned police can arrest anyone on the basis of information fed on the central database. The database will also help enhance the criminal justice system. The CID will also collect fingerprints of persons on the basis of citizenship certificates they acquire from district administration offices and create database for identification of anyone involved in crimes. This system will greatly enhance efficiency of Nepal Police to investigate crimes committed in any parts of the country.