Division Forest Office in Rautahat facing difficulties evicting encroachers from forest areaOut of a total of 29,400 hectares of forest cover in Rautahat, 3,190 hectares have been encroached upon in the district.
One-and-a-half-decades ago, the national forest area adjacent to Betauna Village in Ward No. 8 of Chandrapur Municipality used to be covered in greens. But now, encroachers have moved in and turned the area into a human settlement.
The Division Forest Office in Rautahat has yet to recover the forest land from the encroachers. According to forest officials, they are facing difficulties evicting encroachers from the forest area due to a lack of clear government policy and initiatives.
“There should be coordination at the local level and budget should be allocated for the eviction drive,” said Ram Prasad Sah, assistant forest officer of the Division Forest Office in Rautahat. “Another major reason why forest officials are facing difficulty evicting encroachers is political influence. The encroachers are backed by political parties.”
Three years ago, the Division Forest Office had tried to evict encroachers from the Chure area. But the District Administration Office did not let the forest office continue the eviction drive, Sah said.
“The district office directed the forest office to stop the drive, citing some political situation,” said Sah.
The Chief District Officer is also the coordinator of the committee that oversees forest encroachment. According to the Division Forest Office in Rautahat, the forest office could not evict encroachers from the Chure forest area due to political pressure.
“The forest office had made several efforts to evict encroachers from the Betauna area. But we were stopped from doing our job. Now, a settlement has been formed in the Betauna area,” said Sah.
According to Sah, 1,425 hectares of forest cover in the Chure area has been encroached upon in the name of landless squatters. “This has also affected the President Chure Conservation Programme,” said Sah.
According to the Division Forest Office, forest encroachment is rampant mainly in the national forest under Dhansar, Gaidatar and Paurai Sub Division Forest Offices.
Out of a total of 29,400 hectares of forest cover in Rautahat, 3,190 hectares have been encroached upon. Residents of Chandrapur, Bagmati, Betauna, Nayabasti, Banbohari, Balarikhor, Chocha and Maura have constructed houses and cultivated crops in the forestland.
According to the forest office, the local people have been encroaching on the national forest in the Bholantar area for years. The forest office said it upped surveillance in the area this year, keeping in view the possible encroachment of the forest land.
“The locals make a fence in the forest land overnight and start cultivating the area. People from Dhiyal of Makwanpur and other districts have been staying in encroached forest land. We are unable to evict them due to the pressure of various political parties,” said a forest employee preferring anonymity. According to him, around two hectares of forest land were encroached upon during the lockdown last year.
People who claim to be landless squatters set up a settlement in the forest area in Chandrapur Municipality Ward No 8, he said.
Meanwhile, Sukaman Gole, a landless squatter in Bholantar, said the government should take responsibility to manage a proper settlement for landless squatters.
“We will not encroach forestland if we have land plots to construct houses,” Gole said.