Bardiya villagers build huts in community forest in hopes of getting land deedsMore than a dozen huts have been set up inside Jaya Kusumba Devi Community Forest in Gulariya after the formation of Land Problems Resolution Commission last March.
Many people living near the community and national forest areas in Bardiya have started building temporary huts inside the forests after a commission was formed to distribute land to landless people. Many believe that the commission will provide them with land plots if they claim to be landless and living in the forests.
The Land Problems Resolution Commission was established on March 3, 2020. Following the establishment of the commission’s district branch a few months ago, the ward offices had started to recommend the local units to keep a record of landless people.
Now, more than a dozen huts have been built inside Jaya Kusumba Devi Community Forest in Gujarana, Ward No 2 in Gulariya. Those who have recently constructed huts in the forest land are the residents of nearby settlements.
“We don’t really live in our temporary huts. We return home at night,” said Tiru Gujjar, a resident of Gulariya Ward No. 2, who has set up a temporary hut inside the community forest. “I own three katthas of land but it is not sufficient for my family. We are daily wage workers and need more to survive. That’s why I built a temporary hut inside the forest in hopes of receiving land from the government.”
Another Nokhe Gujjar, a resident of Gulariya Ward No. 2, shared similar sentiments. Nokhe, who is also a member of the Community Forest Users Group, has included his name in the list of landless people.
“Hopefully, I will also receive a plot of land,” he said.
According to the Forest Consumers Committee, dozens of villagers have set up huts in the forest land in recent times. Four days ago, the Division Forest Office in Bardiya had demolished dozens of huts from the forestland only for the villagers to rebuild huts in the area.
Jaya Kusumba Devi Community Forest covers 115 hectares of land. According to the data of the Division Forest Office, 68 hectares of the forestland have been encroached upon in the name of landless people.
Currently, 51 individuals have built temporary huts in the forestland. Satyandra Yadav, chairman of Jaya Kusumba Devi Community Forest, said, “Those who already own houses and properties elsewhere have been constructing huts in the forest. Some of them are also engaged in selling land plots of forest illegally.”
According to Mahendra Wagle, division forest officer in Bardiya, his office has been notified that some of the land mafias have been engaged in selling the forestland illegally after knowing that land plots are being distributed through the Land Problems Resolution Commission.
“There are some genuine landless families who have been living in Phanta of Jaya Kusumba Devi Community Forest for over two decades. But a majority of those who have recently built huts in the forestland are not genuine landless people,” said Deepak Phadera, a local civil society leader in Phanta.
Meanwhile, 53 temporary huts constructed in the name of landless victims in Neulapur, Thakurbaba Municipality Ward No. 3, were also recently demolished by the Division Forest Office.
However, Bhim KC, chairman of the Land Problems Resolution Commission in the district, said that only those families staying in the public or forest land for more than a decade will receive land plots.
“We are in the process to manage houses for landless people after conducting a detailed investigation. The respective ward office should provide recommendations for the landless people to receive land plots,” he said.