Locals start returning encroached forest land in BardiyaMany farmers in the rural municipality have converted the forest land into agricultural fields.
Twenty-two farmers from Chaudharipur and Gauripara villages in Badhaiyatal Rural Municipality, Bardiya, returned the encroached land of Tripura Community Forest two weeks ago.
“The farmers cumulatively handed over eight bighas of land to the community forest,” said Dronaraj Sharma, assistant forest officer at the Division Forest Office in Bardiya.
The locals of Badhaiyatal Ward No. 8 had formed a community forest users’ group for Tripura Community Forest a decade ago. But over the years, some locals have converted the forest land into their private properties.
To free the encroached forest land, the community forest users’ group had recently organised various programmes and interactions in the area, as a result of which some locals agreed to return the land owned by the community forest.
“I decided to return the land after I realised that conserving and protecting forests and their resources is important. Forests are an inseparable part of our life and we must protect them,” said Raju Chaudhary.
Many farmers in the rural municipality have converted the forest land into agricultural fields.
In Ward No. 6, approximately eight bighas of land belonging to Rihar Community Forest had been encroached by individuals, a temple and a campus. The encroached land was recently returned to the community forest.
“Discussions were held for a long time regarding the encroached forest land. Finally, the people who had been using the land agreed to return the land. Even landless squatters have agreed to return the forest land,” said Ram Dulare Tharu, chairman of Rihar Community Forest Users’ Group.
Similarly, around 10 bighas of encroached land were recovered by Doraha Community Forest in Butaha while Rambazaar Woman Community Forest in Gulariya Ward No. 4 has recouped one and a half bighas of encroached land.
According to Sharma, nearly 372 hectares of the forest land in the district has been encroached upon by illegal settlers and farming community. Bardiya has a total of 21,700 hectares of forest land.
“A growing number of people are returning the encroached forest land. The forest office is helping the community forests to fence the returned forest land and to plant saplings,” Sharma said.
Usually, it takes an intervention from the government authorities to recover encroached forest land. “What the community forest groups have done in Bardiya to recover the lost forest land is exemplary,” Sharma added.