National

Rautahat and Bara reject Parsa park expansion

- CHANDAN KUMAR MANDAL, Kathmandu

Feb 8, 2018-The government’s alleged plan to extend the area of Parsa National Park (PNP) has drawn flak from the people of Rautahat and Bara districts.

A delegation representing the residents of the two districts, including the people from the community forest user groups, submitted a memorandum expressing their concern on the issue to Yubak Dhoj DC, the secretary at the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, in Capital on Wednesday.

According to Ramji Prasad Bajgain, Federation of Community Forest Users Nepal (FECOFUN) Bara chairperson, the government has been working on a plan to expand the area of the park up to the Bagmati river.

“Different sources inside the government bodies have confirmed about the government’s plan to expand the area of the park,” said Bajgain, adding that high-level government officials, political leaders and other interest groups are lobbying for the park area expansion.

Mahendra Upreti, FECOFUN Rautahat representative, said the plan which was allegedly pushed by some former lawmakers and some government officials.

“The proposal is moving around different government agencies and it is our understanding that the forest ministry is under pressure to execute the plan,” he said.

An official said that discussions regarding PNP area expansion was indeed cropping up from time to time during the meetings of the concerned government agencies.

Local forest users groups of Rautahat and Bara have said that expansion of the park will result in a takeover of nearly 95 percent of forest cover that has so far been conserved and maintained by local communities.

Bara and Rautahat have 40 and 43 forests conserved by community forest user groups.

Converting those forests into a national park means the locals could be barred from accessing forest resources. There is also the risk of human-wildlife conflict.

“We have been protecting these forests for two decades. And now when they are dense and sheltering many animals, the government is planning to take them away from us,” said Bajgain.

Indra Devi Thapa, a resident of Nijgadh-2, Rautahat, said some indigenous communities have also been living in some community forests for a long time, and they could lose their homes if the PNP expansion is carried out.

“The government should also think about the people who have been living in forests,” she said.

The delegation has claimed that previous such expansion project was also conducted without the knowledge of locals.

Terming the government’s plan arbitrary,  Bajgain said, “No local government, forest user groups and local communities were consulted when making the park expansion plan. Only handful people are involved in this. We have come here to warn them before anything is done.”

According to the Dil Raj Khanal, legal advisor to FECOFUN, the government should follow some obligations like public hearing and Environment Impact Assessment study, among others, before expanding the area of the park.

“As per the Convention on Biological Diversity, there should be informed consent from local community. Likewise, our conservation regulations state that there should be public hearing and EIA study as well as feasibility study,” he said.

The ministry spokesperson Dhananjay Poudel said there has been no official decision on the matter.

“We must be responsible for conserving biodiversity as well as addressing the concerns of local community. Therefore, we will hold discussion and conduct required studies before making such decision,” he said.

Published: 08-02-2018 08:20

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