Chure degradation continues amid catastrophic projectionsEven when there is visible environmental degradation, the local government has focused on promoting the Chure area as a tourism spot, putting the ecology of the region at risk.
Unchecked degradation of the Chure range over the past decade continues to do massive damage to its fragile topography, resulting in frequent natural disasters such as floods and landslides.
In the Udayapur section of the Chure range, excessive exploitation of the forests, rivers and valleys for natural resources such as riverbed materials, forest products and timber has weakened the landform, environmentalists say.
“The Chure range is weakening due to landslides and erosion caused by increasing human activity in the area,” said Netra Regmi, an environmental expert. “The government is yet to assess the damage caused by the opening of road networks in the fragile hills without conducting Environmental Impact Assessments.”
In the past five to seven years, the Chure hills in Province 1 have seen rapid soil erosion.
When it comes to the Chure hills, the local level government has misplaced priorities. Even when there is visible environmental degradation, the local government has focussed on promoting the Chure area as a tourism spot. Increased human activity in the area has led to the exploitation of natural resources the area is rich in.
“The encroachment of the Chure region has affected both humans and wildlife that are dependent on the region for sustainability,” said Ram Katel, a resident of Triyuga Municipality-13.
Katel, who has been witness to the gradual degradation of the forests and rivers in the Chure region, says the native wildlife is slowly disappearing since they are being forced out of their natural habitat.
Ramkisan Chaudhary, a resident of Chaudandigarhi Municipality-5 in Sundarpur, has been involved in farming and animal husbandry all his life. He is dependent on the Chure forests and rivers for his livelihood. But for farmers like him, the slow deterioration of the region spells disaster in the long run.
“The local government has been promoting the Chure area as a tourist spot, which has led to an increase in tourist footfall,” said Ram Kisan. “The heavy inflow of picnickers in the forests and river banks has created problems in waste management. Picnickers come here and generate waste and blast loud music, terrorising the wildlife that calls this area their home.”
Ward Chairman of Chaudandigadhi Municipality-5 Dev Narayan Chaudhary agrees that noise pollution has increased in the area, which is harmful to the diverse wildlife of the Chure region.
“This has led to an increase in human-animal conflict in nearby settlements. Wild animals enter villages in search of food and shelter since their natural habitat has shrunk with the increase in human activities,” he said.
There are 19 rivers flowing through the Chure hills in Udayapur and most of these water bodies have dried up or are on the verge of drying up.
Alongside unchecked human activities, the Chure region is also burdened with frequent dry landslides, deforestation, timber smuggling and overgrazing.
“Landslides wreaked havoc in Katari, Triyuga, Chaudandigadhi and Belka municipal areas of Udayapur last monsoon. The Gaighat-Kadamha road section of the Sagarmatha Highway is always at risk of being swept away by dry landslides,” said Jageshwar Shah, assistant forest officer at the Division Forest Office in Gaighat. “Frequent landslides during the monsoon also increases the water level in the Triyuga river, flooding arable lands near the riverbanks."
Constant floods in the rivers flowing through the Chure hills affect the settlements downstream, as the rivers wash down sand and gravel and dump them in cultivable lands.
“In addition to floods and landslides plaguing the Chure area in Udayapur, timber smuggling and excavation of riverbed materials are also rampant in the area,” said Santosh Karki of Guras in Katari Municipality-2.
The lower Chure in the inner Tarai region has already fallen victim to years of deforestation and extraction of riverbed materials.
“The effects of years of deforestation, excessive grazing and illegal extraction of materials are beginning to show now," said Karki.
“Frequent floods and landslides put villages in inner Tarai at risk every year. Around a dozen villages in Triyuga, Chaudandigadhi and Belka municipalities have been battered by floods and landslides in the last five to seven years,” said Regmi, the environmental expert.
Under the federal government’s initiative, the Triyuga River Control Management Office in Udayapur for the past four years has been working on constructing embankments to fortify nearby settlements against floods in the Triyuga River.
But for local residents like Ram Kisan who have been witnessing the gradual deterioration of the Chure region in Udayapur for years, the conservation of the fragile ecosystem and their livelihood is a cause for concern.
“If the exploitation and excavation of the Chure continues, the long-term consequences will be fatal to the environment and the wildlife," he said.