Settlers occupy areas along Bhimdutta HighwayA large area of forest cover along the Dadeldhura-Dhangadhi section of Bhimdutta Highway has been encroached upon and occupied by illegal settlers.
A large area of forest cover along the Dadeldhura-Dhangadhi section of Bhimdutta Highway has been encroached upon and occupied by illegal settlers.
Although dozens of new settlements and market places have cropped up on the highway side, the authorities concerned are suspiciously quiet about the issue.
Ram Chandra Awasti, who had worked under the Department of Roads during the highway construction, said more than 30 settlements, small and large, have been built by clearing the forest area, but neither the department nor the forest office have made efforts to remove them.
The encroachment of forest area has spread from Dadeldhura to Doti to Kailali.
“Except for a few settlements like Sahajpur in Kailali, Budar in Doti and Gaur and Syula in Dadeldhura-Doti border, the majority of the highway side settlements and market places were illegally raised by stripping the forest areas,” Awasti said.
Today, the highway passes through a settlement or a market place after an interval of every 5-7 km.
Hair Bohara, a resident of Gaura in Dadeldhura district, said encroachment of forest area along the highway has still not stopped.
“People are competing to build their homes on the highway side by selling their property,” he said.
Most of the settlers residing on encroached forest areas had migrated from hill districts.
Dharma Raj Joshi of Chhatiwan in Doti district said the forest areas along the highway were encroached upon by illegal settlers in collusion with the forest officers and local government representatives.
“None of the forest area along the highway has remained immune to encroachment. The forest authority at first tried to get rid of the illegal settlers, but it soon gave up after the local political leaders intervened,” he said.
Every now and again, the Department of Roads issues eviction notice to the people occupying the forest areas, only for the latter to ignore the directive because they are allegedly protected by local politicians.
The Department of Forest has also failed to initiate action to recover the encroached forest areas owing to the political protection enjoyed by the illegal settlers, forest officials said.