Thousands of hectares of char kose jungle land have been encroached upon in Morang over decadesIn Laxmimarga alone, about 600 houses have been built on unauthorised land, according to local town management committee.
“The forest area has decreased from 55,500 to 44,540 hectares, according to a GIS survey two years ago,” Ghimire said.
Shiva Prasad Dhakal, mayor of Sundar Haraicha, said urbanisation took off after 1986 when a road track was opened in the area.
“Biratchowk, for instance, used to be a village of a few huts,” Dhakal said. “Now it’s a full-fledged town.” There are a few upsides of this urbanisation as well, said Dhakal. “Almost all the villages in the area are now connected to a road network.”
Dhakal added that the encroachment of the jungle started before the local level elections and stopped only after it completed.
However, locals claim that encroachment hasn’t stopped. The local unit has handed over 805 bighas of land to Purbanchal University, 50 bighas to provincial police and 140 bighas to Koshi Tappu.
According to locals, hundreds of bighas of forestland have been encroached upon in areas such as Belbari, Laxmimarga, Kanepokhari, and Pathari bazaar where more than 1,500 buildings have been constructed.
Meanwhile, locals have been constructing houses without getting land registration cards. In Laxmimarga alone, about 600 houses have been built without land ownership card, according to Ramkumar Limbu, chief of the local town management committee that keeps a record of the purchase and sale of the buildings.
“The committee, however, collects revenue from those people and uses it for town management,” Limbu said. To identify the house owners, the-then Dangihat Village Development Committee had distributed card numbers to each of them, according to which the revenue is collected.
But despite the scale of this decades-long encroachment, forest officials say their hands are tied when it comes to reclaiming the land.
“It’s not easy for the forest office and the local unit to reclaim the land. The state itself should move ahead for the purpose,” Ghimire, chief of Division Forest Office, said.