Members of community forest group obstruct felling trees in Butwal-Narayangadh road expansion project citing ownership issueThe federal Ministry of Forest and Environment had granted permission to cut down 46, 294 trees along the section to make it a four-lane street in November last year.
The cutting down of trees for the expansion of the Butwal-Narayangadh section of the East-West Highway was obstructed in less than three hours after it started on Tuesday by a community forest users group and locals.
The Shiva Community Forest Users Group and locals of Kawasoti Municipality Ward No. 2 obstructed the logging of the trees demanding they should be allowed to utilise the felled trees.
The federal Ministry of Forest and Environment had granted permission to cut down 46, 294 trees along the section to make it a four-lane street in November last year. The Department of Forest and Soil Conservation had sent a letter to the Division Road Office in Nawalparasi, allowing the cutting down of the trees for the road expansion project.
On Tuesday, the trees within the Lokaha forest area on the northern side of the road section were being felled when the local forest users group protested in the site claiming ownership over the felled trees.
The community forest users group said they have reared and conserved the trees on both sides of the highway for years, and thus they possess the rightful claim over the felled trees. But the Ministry of Forest says trees within the periphery of the roads fall under its ownership.
"The ownership of the trees that we have conserved should be ours," said Ramakant Bhandari, a member of the local community forest user group. "It does not make sense to deny us the ownership of the trees that we have preserved and sell it to the Ministry of Forest."
There is a forest on both sides of the road section reared by the local community forest user groups. There are 34 community forest user groups in the 37km area between Gaidakot and Daunne.
"The Department of Forest and Soil Conservation has asked us to hand over the trees to the Division Forest Office in the letter sent to us," said Sujan Adhikari, chief engineer of the Daunne-Gaidakot section of Butwal-Narayangadh Road Expansion Project. “We have started to cut down trees accordingly."
According to Adhikari, the forest office has ownership over the trees that are within the area of the road. The China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC), the contractor of the project, said it was going to hand over the trees to the Division Forest Office.