Deforested area regains lost glory

- DURGA LAL KC, Dang

Nov 30, 2014-

A community forest in the district, which was encroached upon and turned into an agricultural land, has become lush green again.

Consumers of Mahadeva Community Forest at Gobardiha-6 had encroached upon the forest area and turned it into farmland seven years ago, earning the consumers’ committee a bad repute nationwide. However, with the effort of a few, the forest has regained its lost glory.

About 32 hectares of the community forest was encroached upon during the first Constituent Assembly elections due to vested interest of political parties and distributed among 280 households at the rate of four katthas each. The then committee had also tried to sell the land by dividing the forest land into small plots.

“It was like razing our own house down and when the whole village earned an ill-repute, some of us decided to make things right,” said Tirtha Raj Gyawali, vice-chairperson of the present consumers’ committee. “It was hard to conserve the forest initially but things became easier as more consumers were involved,” he said.

Initially, the consumers armed with batons and spears had chased away representatives of the District Forest Office and the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (FECOFUN) who reached there for supervision. The consumers had reportedly issued death threats against anyone campaigning for the conservation of the forest.

“Despite such threats, we started the campaign to restore the forest and prosecuted the committee members responsible for the deforestation and removed encroachers with police assistance. And after patrolling the forest night and day, we were able to send all the encroachers away in five years,” said Rampati Chaudhary, treasurer of the committee.

According to committee Chairperson Prem Lal Chaudhary, they took legal action against eight people, including the then forest committee chairperson and took others into confidence by making them aware of the importance of the forest. “We assured the Rapti flood victims of alternative sources of sustenance and have presently planted trees in the encroached area surrounded by barbed wires,” Chaudhary said. The committee has also been providing loans for income generating purposes to needy families through the forest funds.

The forest users also conduct awareness classes every Saturday. As a result, consumers who encroached upon the forest in the past are now actively involved in conservation. The forest spread over 66 hectares initially spans over 410 hectares now. Likewise, using forest income, the committee has initiated various developmental activities, including installation of bio-gas plants, electrification and providing essential furniture and scholarship funds for schools.

“Their activity has sent a positive message that forests can be conserved if the consumers are aware,” said Shobhakar Sapkota, FECOFUN chairperson in the district.

Published: 01-12-2014 10:32

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