Tree felling drive courts controversy in ParbatKushma Municipality had decided to cut down trees, arguing that jungles had increased risks of wildlife in the settlement areas.
Kushma Municipality had decided to cut down trees, arguing that jungles had increased risks of wildlife in the settlement areas. Every big tree within a distance of 25m from a house was felled. Some ward offices even issued warnings that anyone unwilling to do so within 45 days would be deprived of the local unit’s facilities. But the locals argued that the drive is not mentioned anywhere in law and was decided on a whim by the municipality. Bowing to pressure, Kushma Municipality stopped the drive.
Phalewas too stopped the drive, but the locals didn’t obey the local unit’s ruling and geared up to fell trees. They chopped down trees that were within a distance of 20metres from residences and five metres from latrines. Today, the same locals are venting ire, arguing that the drive has taken a toll on greenery and ecosystem. They say the drive has destroyed trees such as banyan and peepal, and also fruit trees.
Phalewas Mayor Padampani Sharma has denied that the drive has received ire from the local community, but the locals have been outspoken in protesting the local unit’s decision.
“The municipality’s decision might backfire, especially as the local unit hasn’t taken the importance of ecosystem seriously,” Bishwa Sigdel, a local, wrote on Facebook.
“In the name of protecting settlements, the local unit has also destroyed chautaris, the epitome of Hindu culture and history,” Rajendra Bhandari, another local, said.
Ashok Kumar Shrestha, chief of the Division Forest Office, said that his office has received numerous complaints against the drive lately. “We are investigating into the matter,” he said.
The Gandaki Provincial Government last year introduced an act regarding the conservation and management of banyan and peepal trees. According to the act, it is the local unit’s responsibility to preserve those trees that have a connection to Hindu mythology. If the trees need to be displaced, they should be replaced with other saplings, according to the act. Kushma’s local units, however, have not introduced any such plans as yet.