Right foot forward
Given the denudation of forest cover in Nepal, the government is left with no option than to introduce, for the first time, a policy on the use of forest land. The Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation is all set to come up with a policy that will ensure the maintenance of at least 40 per cent of Nepal’s land area as forests. The draft policy aims at providing the use of forest land only for nationally prioritised projects run by the government or the private sector. The successive governments are to blame for making available forest land in an unplanned manner to government agencies and to the private sector. Some agencies responsible for the reduction in forest cover include the Landless Problem Resolution Commission, the Forest Land Strengthening Commission, the Rehabilitation Company for the Displaced, the security wings and the state’s construction projects. Forest area has been appropriated without a proper policy or environmental impact assessment. The forest land was heavily misused during the times of political instability in the past to serve narrow political interests. The harm caused to the environment and to humans as well as the flora and fauna is incalculable.
Deforestation is the main cause of ecological imbalance and to address this problem the contradictions in various provisions related to natural resources and local self-governance need to be dealt with to obtain clarity on people’s rights and responsibilities over natural resources. It is significant to note that after the management of forests were handed over to the local communities, the trend of deforestation has decreased. The locals should be encouraged further to reap more benefits. Scientific and appropriate models of forest management must be established for ensuring environmental sustainability, which is also one of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. Regenerating forests, with the maximum involvement of the people at the grassroots, would be a step in that direction.