Five bighas of forest land encroached in Bardibas, MahottariThe encroachers are working in collusion with the forest officials, forest consumer committee, and Bardibas Municipality, local residents say.
People have started encroaching the forest land of Ramtel Danda Community Forest in Bardibas, Mahottari in collusion with the forest officials, forest consumer committee, and Bardibas Municipality, local residents say.
Around five bighas of the forest land have been encroached upon so far, they say.
Recently, Lilamani Acharya and Krishna Prasad Gautam, local residents of Ward No. 1 in Bardibas, fell down more than 300 trees of the community forest and encroached forest land after their land plots were swept away by the floods of Bhapsi in the monsoon.
Ramtel Danda Community Consumers Committee, Bardibas Municipality and the Division Forest Office in Mahottari had given permission to Gautam and Acharya to cut down trees, local residents say. The duo asked for permission to cut down trees, citing that their land plots fall under the forest cover.
The Revenue Office in Bardibas has also verified the documents, saying that around five bighas of the forest land belong to Gautam and Acharya. The incident came to light after the local residents found out about the tree felling.
Twenty-eight years ago, 21 hectares of Ramtel Danda Community Forest was handed to the community forest consumers committee.
“They had shown the recommendation of the government offices before fencing around five bighas of the forest land,” said Bijaya Pokharel, a local resident of Bardibas Ward No. 1. “The people’s representatives, forest officials and government employees are all working in collusion.”
The villagers have also filed a complaint to the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority. Fifty-one of them have signed the document and filed the complaint to the CIAA for a detailed investigation into the matter.
“Land mafias are the reason why incidents like this continue to occur. The area of Ramtel Danda Community Forest is shrinking due to human encroachment. That’s why we have filed a complaint at the CIAA for investigation,” said Dipak Karki, a local resident of Ward No. 1 in Bardibas.
According to Hemanta Prasad Sah, chief at the Division Forest Office in Mahottari, the ward office, forest consumers committee and revenue and survey offices have verified that the land belongs to Acharya and Gautam.
“This is the reason why the forest office gave permission to cut down trees,” Sah said.
Sher Bahadur Raut, chairman of the community forest, had provided recommendations for the tree felling, saying that the landowners have planted tree saplings in five bighas of land elsewhere.
“I provided the recommendation to cut down trees on the basis of documents prepared by the Revenue and Survey Offices,” Raut said.
Meanwhile, Chudamani Pokharel, ward chairman of Bardibas Ward No. 1, said his office provided recommendations to cut down trees after looking at the recommendations of the forest office, forest consumer committee and the survey office.
Sah, however, said that an arrest warrant has been issued in the name of Gautam and Acharya on deforestation charges. The forest office has also suspended seven employees, including an assistant forest officer, and started an investigation into the case.
The Post tried to contact both Acharya and Gautam, but their mobile phones were switched off.
According to the Division Forest Office, 120 teak, 80 masala and 35 other trees in the five bighas of forest land were also cut down.
“Most of the trees were felled along with their roots. Fifty tractors were used to transport the felled trees,” said Jagendra Shrestha, a local resident of Bardibas.