Forest officials clueless about government plan for Parsa Park

  • Ram Bahadur Bamjan religious group demands 700 hectares of forest land in Halkhoriya
- Post Report, Kathmandu

Feb 13, 2018-Forest Ministry and District Forest Office officials have no clarity on the central government's plan for large forest area of Parsa National Park (PNP).

Most forest officials are clueless whether the government plans to expand PNP or decrease it substantially by giving away forest land to a religious group.

The central government, following its Cabinet meeting held February 9, decided to grant PNP forest area to Ram Bahadur Bamjan's religious group after declaring the area as the 'religious forest'.

Outgoing Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation Bikram Pandey had submitted to the Cabinet the proposal to give away a part of the PNP area to the religious group. No other agency including the District Forest Office (DFO) was consulted before submission of this proposal. 

Confusion prevails among relevant government agencies regarding this proposal to earmark PNP forest land for the religious group.

“We have no idea about this decision,” said a Bara District Forest official, adding the DFO, major stakeholder in this regard, was snubbed while taking such a crucial decision.

The religious group has demanded approximately 700 hectares forest around Halkhoriya area, which also includes Kankalini Community Forest. The religious group had built some infrastructure there a few years back. Authorities removed those houses 

before the area was included in the park. 

Government has not clearly mentioned the exact area of the forest land it plans to donate to the group. The confusion about the decision prevails in the Forest Ministry. Officials say such decision was not even taken. 

Forest Entrepreneurship and Management Division (under the Forest Ministry) Chief Chandra Man Dangol says, "The decision on giving away forest land has not been taken yet. This is just a proposal.” The move to give forest to the group is also against the existing Forest Act (1993). According to the act, any religious body, group or community wishing to conserve and utilise the national forest of any religious place or its surrounding shall submit the application to the DFO. 

“We have not even heard about it, let alone receiving any written application,” said another official. 

“The decision has been taken by the government. How can we speak openly against the decision directly taken by the government?” added the official, requesting not to reveal his identity.

As per the existing rules, those requesting land for the religious forest should also submit the work plan, mentioning the area and boundaries of such forest as well as functions to be carried out in such area. Products from religious forest should not be used for commercial purpose but only for religious activities whereas trees felling should not adversely impact the environment. 

Another government agency concerned as well as snubbed by the government’s decision is PNP. The forest land planned to being given away to Bamjan group is the ‘core’ area inside the park. Halkhoriya came inside the park in 2015 when it was extended by 128 km.

According to PNP Chief Conservation Officer Haribhadra Acharya, the Halkhoriya area is significant for wildlife conservation and environmental reasons. 

“Being a wetland area, Halkhoriya Daha area is very important. It has movement of valuable wildlife like tiger, rhino, elephants and others due to water resources and it contributes in recharging of the water level for Chure area,” he said.

“We are not sure about the particular area being given. However, if it is Halkhoriya and 700 hectares of forests, as per initial reports, it would create problems in conservation. Human movement would occur inside the park.”

Such move would create problems in the future if the government comes only to consult during implementation of the decision, but not before taking the decision, said Acharya. 

Published: 13-02-2018 07:57

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