Encroachment of national forest land unchecked in RautahatThe encroachers are willing to leave the forest area if the state makes provisions for them to settle elsewhere.
People are constructing houses by encroaching the national forest area at Betauna in Chandrapur Municipality, Rautahat, say forest officials.
The people, some of them landless squatters who had been living on the edge of the forest, have started to move into the forest area and build permanent structures.
“The encroachers have been using the forest land for a decade now so we cannot evict them overnight. We are currently monitoring the situation and will look into various measures we can take to stop the encroachment of the Betauna forest area,” said division forest officer Binod Singh.
Encroachment of forest land is rife in the district, according to the forest office. The data available at the division forest office shows the total national forest land in Rautahat to be 29,400 hectares. Meanwhile, a report prepared by the division forest office last year shows that 3,500 hectares of forest land have been encroached in the district.
The forest encroachment, according to the division forest office, is rampant mainly in Betauna, Banbohari, Gaidatar, Judibela, Kanakpur, Jangalsaiya, Santapur, Rangapur, Maira, Balarikhor, Bagmati and Bholantar.
To curb forest encroachment, the forest office had launched an eviction drive seven years ago. But it was unsuccessful, mainly due to the political protection of the encroachers. Forest officials claimed that major political parties had exerted pressure on them not to evict forest land encroachers, as they are their vote bank.
However, the encroachers say they are willing to leave the forest area if the state makes provisions for them to settle elsewhere.
“I don’t own any land to build a house on. I don’t have any alternative but to live in public land,” said Sukhal Sah, who built her house by encroaching forest land in Betauna.
According to Sah, political leaders have assured them multiple times of a permanent solution to end their landless state, but nobody has kept their promises.
“We don’t want to encroach the forest land, but we have no alternative,” said Sah.