On the right track

  • To conserve the Chure, the illegal outflow of resources to North India must be stopped
On the right track

Jun 30, 2014-Long dogged with accusations of complacency on the environment front, the government, on June 17, finally declared the Chure hills an ecological conservation zone. This means an immediate ban on deforestration, the mining of minerals, sand and boulders and any activities leading to the loss of wildlife. Unauthorised entry into the region has also been prohibited. This decision is in line with the formation of the Rastrapati Chure-Tarai Madhes Conservation Development Committee, which was reconstituted from the Rastrapati Chure Conversation Programme, formed in 2010 by President Ram Baran Yadav. The new committee will take a broader approach by incorporating the Tarai-Madhes landscape into Chure conservation. The Committee will now be utilising scientific data on geological formation and the status and damage-need assessment of minerals and other resources.

The Chure range, which extends from Ilam in the east to Kanchanpur in the west, spreads over 12 percent of the total areas of the 36 hills in the lower hills and the Tarai and bristles with ecological diversity. Dating back 34 million years, these hills, considered ‘unproductive’, had long been spared the axe for agriculture and settlement. But the last two decades have seen a massive increase in the plunder of the Chure. An increasing demand for raw materials in neighbouring north India’s construction boom has led to the Chure region being pillaged like never before. The demand is for timber, sand and boulders, all of which are plentiful and easy to extract in the Chure hills and valleys. In the absence of effective regulatory bodies and policies, hundreds of lorries filled to the brim with precious resources trundle their way across the Indian border every day. Irreparable damage might already have been done, Minister of Forests and Soil Conversation Mahesh Acharya has confessed. But it is still not too late.

The new Committee must not be allowed to go the way of the old Rastrapati Chure Conservation Programme, which spent over Rs 1 billion without any tangible results. A scientific survey of the area and its resources is a good plan that must materialise. With reliable data, conservationists can come up with targeted plans that will take into account the Chure region’s fragile topography and diverse flora and fauna. The Committee also plans to take a different approach to the use of Chure resources. The idea is not to simply ban all excavation but to utilise resources in a ‘sustainable’ manner according to the domestic need. By channelling resources in a limited manner to the domestic market through official permits, supplemented by stringent oversight and regulatory mechanisms, the government can hope to stem illegal plunder. Allowing the Chure’s devastation to continue any longer can have disastrous consequences, both for Nepal and for downstream India. While the onus lies on Nepal to protect the Chure hills, India too must realise its pursuit of fast development will come at a great ecological cost.

Published: 01-07-2014 09:04

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