Vast swathes of forest encroached upon by ‘landless’Forest authority in the Far West has failed to reclaim thousands of hectares of forestland that are under illegal occupation.
Forest authority in the Far West has failed to reclaim thousands of hectares of forestland that are under illegal occupation.
Officials say the so-called landless people have encroached upon a vast swathes of forestland backed by political parties and their leaders.
Sudhir Prasad Koirala, chief of Far Western Regional Forest Directorate, said the forest authority alone cannot clear the forestland because of the involvement of political parties.
Use of force to evict the illegal settlers would only prompt political protest and there is a risk of the issue being portrayed as a case of forest authority bullying the landless people, he added.
To tackle the problem, Koirala recommends, launching a concerted effort to break the nexus between political parties and illegal settlers and passing a commitment motion from the Parliament to clear the forestland under occupation.
The problem of forestland encroachment is particularly widespread in the districts of Kailali, Kanchanpur, Dadeldhura, Doti, Achham and Bajhang.
In Kailali, the data of nature conservation groups and organisations show that encroachers have grabbed over 40,000 hectares of forestland, though the records maintained by the District Forest Office (DFO) show that 25,000 hectares of forestland have been taken over by illegal settlers. Likewise, the DFO in Kanchanpur has a record of 5,500 hectares of forestland where settlements have been illegally built. However, the data prepared by local conservation groups mention that illegal settlers have grabbed around 15,000 hectares of forestland in Kanchanpur.
Dharma Bahadur Chand, a former forest official, said if the data of conservation groups were to be believed, the total area of encroached forestland in the Far West was 20 times more than the figure maintained by the DFOs.