Farmers in Geruwa municipality accuse the Bardiya National Park of encroaching on their farmlandsMore than 200 farmers have already lost their cultivable lands in Geruwa Municipality to the erosion caused by Geruwa river and the alleged encroachment of private land by Bardiya National Park.
The Geruwa river in Bardiya is notorious for changing its course more than once in a year, especially during the wet season. Last monsoon, the river changed its course and inundated the farmland of Kamal Regmi, a farmer of Geruwa Municipality. Regmi is now landless because soon after the water level receded, the Bardiya National Park fenced the area claiming it to be the park’s land.
The river, an offshoot of the Karnali River, has been gradually changing its course towards the western side because of silt formation.
According to the record of the District Land Revenue Office, the border of the national park has been fixed up to the western part of Geruwa river. Because of this, the park claims the land that surfaces after bank erosion as its property. Locals like Regmi have knocked the municipality’s doors with their complaints of being left landless by the park several times.
“The river has been eroding our fields on the western side little by little every year and the national park has been claiming our registered land plots as its property,” said Regmi.
However, Ananath Baral, chief conservation officer of the park, said the record of the District Land Revenue Office showed that the western part of Geruwa river is the border of the national park.
“Farmers have started to lodge complaints citing that the national park has grabbed their land plots. We are discussing with them to find a solution to the issue,” said Baral.
According to Geruwa Municipal Office, more than 500 bighas of paddy fields have been included in the territory of the national park after riverbank erosion over the years. Jamuna Singh KC, mayor of Geruwa Municipality, said farmers have land ownership certificates with them to prove their claim on the land.
“The rural municipality has taken initiatives to ensure that the farmers get their land plots back from the national park,” said KC.
So far, more than 200 farmers in the local unit have already lost their cultivable lands to the erosion caused by the Geruwa river and the alleged encroachment of private land by the national park.
“The national park has been gradually encroaching our lands. Every year, the river has been eroding its bank, gulping up our land, and the national park has been constructing electric fences to keep us off,” said Ramdulare Chaudhary, a farmer in Geruwa.