Construction of proposed Bardibas Medical College uncertainDisputes over land acquisition have affected the plans. The construction site lies inside a community forest.
Infrastructure construction at the proposed Bardibas Medical College has been left in a limbo for the past seven years over land acquisition issues.
In 2015, the Council of Ministers had decided to establish a provincial-level medical college—Bardibas Medical College—in Mahottari, a district of Madhesh Province. As per the decision, the construction of the physical infrastructures should be completed by mid-April, 2023. However, the construction work is yet to begin because of a land acquisition dispute.
After the Cabinet’s decision, a Detailed Project Report was prepared, proposing the construction of the physical infrastructures of the medical college in around 49 hectares of land belonging to Maisthan Community Forest in Bardibas Municipality-4.
According to the medical college infrastructure construction office in Bardibas, the proposed construction site is thinly forested. Debi Subedi, the chief medical college infrastructure construction office, said that the Environment Impact Assessment had also been prepared and submitted to the Division Forest Office in Rautahat.
“A writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court recently against the medical college while the federal Ministry of Forest and Environment was preparing to send a file to the Council of Ministers,” Subedi said. “The construction work could not move forward with the writ petition.”
The federal government had allocated a budget for the construction of Bardibas Medical College in the fiscal year 2016-17. The medical college infrastructure construction office is without work now.
Environment campaigner Devnarayan Mandal filed the writ petition at the apex court stating that the construction of the medical college in the forest land would jeopardise the ecosystem in the area. He demanded to shift the construction site of the medical college elsewhere. “I am not against establishing a medical college. I just don’t want them to encroach the forest land,” said Mandal.
The DPR mentions that a total of 1,967 trees need to be cut down for the construction of the physical infrastructures inside Maisthan Community Forest. However, a consultant service company involved in preparing the Initial Environmental Examination says that only 300 to 400 trees should be cut down to construct the infrastructures while other trees could be saved to make a ‘green medical college’.
Meanwhile, the locals of Mahottari who have been looking forward to having a medical college within access are disappointed with the uncertainty surrounding the medical college. They say that the construction of the medical college does not stand to “affect the environment” since the proposed site of the medical college has only a few trees.
Sanu Purbachhane Magar, a resident of Bardibas-4, says the government should construct the medical college in the proposed location. “In the name of conserving Chure forests, some people and organisations are conspiring against the development of Bardibas,” said Magar, a resident of Bardibas-4. “We will launch a stringent protest if conspiracies are being hatched to shift the proposed medical college outside Bardibas.”
A study team chose Bardibas for the construction of the medical college for its location as it is almost in the middle of all eight districts of Madhesh Province. “The project site is suitable,” said Prakash Pokharel, another local of Bardibas. “The locals of the entire province will benefit from the construction of the medical college. The government should construct the college at the proposed site.”
The federal government aims to construct the college with a 1000-bed hospital. The total budget for the construction and establishment of the medical college is estimated at Rs30 billion. The government has spent around Rs60 million so far.
“It is a misfortune that the government could not initiate the construction of the project which was approved years ago,” said Giriraj Mani Pokharel, the former education minister hailing from Mahottari. “Bardibas Medical College should be constructed in Mahottari because people from across eight districts of the province stand to benefit from its establishment.”