Mayor of Madi Municipality demands amendment to National Parks and Wildlife Conservation ActThe mayor announced his intention to go on a hunger strike from February 19 if his demands are not addressed.
Ramesh Kumar Paudel
Thakur Dhakal, the mayor of Madi Municipality, announced his intention to go on a hunger strike from February 19—which coincides with Democracy Day—if his demands are not addressed.
“I have raised a couple of issues in the existing act. I will reconsider my agitation if my demands are addressed by Wednesday. Otherwise, there will be no alternative but to go on a strike,” said Dhakal.
Dhakal, who was elected as the mayor from the ruling Nepal Communist Party in 2017, has long been demanding authorities to run round-the-clock vehicle services in Madi, build a fence wall around the national park forest to prevent wildlife from entering settlements and to stop the encroachment of lands.
Madi is surrounded by the national park on three sides and the locals have to pass through a dense forest of around 10km to reach the district headquarters, Bharatpur. It is one of the areas most affected by the human-wildlife conflict. Wildlife from the national park enter the settlement, attack people and destroy crops each year. According to the data available at the national park, at least 157 people have been killed in animal attacks in the buffer zone of the park in the past 20 years. A third of the victims were from Madi alone.
The locals have been raising their voice for the rights and protection of villagers from wildlife. Dhakal and other elected representatives last year submitted a memorandum to Nepal Communist Party co-chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who was elected to the House of Representatives from Chitwan constituency No 5 where Madi lies, to take initiatives for the amendment of the act.
According to Dhakal, the act is the major barrier in developing the area. The Thori-Bharatpur section of the under-construction postal highway is proposed through Madi, but the Supreme Court recently issued its verdict not to include the Madi section under the postal highway.
“The Act prevents us from constructing roads within the Madi area. Vehicles cannot run through Madi after 10 pm. The locals of Madi feel trapped inside the settlement,” said Dhakal. He also demanded authorities to provide the locals with suitable compensation for crops damaged by wildlife.
“The park administration provides relief but it is far less than the actual damage caused by wild animals,” Dhakal said.
However, Narayan Rupakheti, the chief conservation officer at the Chitwan National Park, said, “The demands raised by Dhakal cannot be addressed by the park administration. The Act can be amended only from the federal policy level.”