Newly opened roads harm dozens of community forest areas in DarchulaLocal forest user’s groups remain mute spectators.
Various local units in Darchula have been constructing roads in rural areas without conducting environmental impact assessments, raising concern among forest officials.
Haphazard construction of roads is not only causing environmental degradation but also putting many settlements at risk of landslides.
The local consumer committees involved in development projects are said to be at the helm of haphazard construction of roads in the district, according to locals.
Uddhav Singh Dhami, a local man, said vast swathes of tree cover have been stripped in Kalipatal, Dhamideu and Agurali community forests to make way for roads.
“Most of these road projects are being carried out with the use of excavators which is dangerous, given the rugged topography of the area,” said Dhami.
Most local units in the district have allocated budget for road projects in the current fiscal year. All nine local units, except Api Himal Rural Municipality, have been contracting roads in their areas.
The ongoing construction of Malikarjun-Bhagwati-Mahakali road has made its way through three community forests in Malikarjun Rural Municipality. Tarkaraj Ojha, ward chairman at Malikarjun Rural Municipality-5, accepted that the road tracks are being opened without conducting surveys.
Chakra Singh Hyanki, chairman of the Api Nampa Conservation Area Management Council, said that roads have been constructed in many parts of the district without maintaining road grading quality.
“How can vehicles ply on such roads? They put commuters in direct danger,” said Hyanki, adding that only excavators make money while digging the roads.
Most of the local units went on a road digging spree from mid-June to mid-July. Locals living in many settlements of Naugadh and Malikarjun rural municipalities and Mahakali and Shailyasikhar municipalities said they have been living at high risk of landslides due to unsustainable infrastructure development projects underway in the district.
Ranendra Singh, information officer of the Division Forest Office, said that they have not received any complaint regarding the loss of forest resources while constructing roads. “We cannot take action until someone registers a complaint against road construction or opening road stretches,” said Singh. “We haven’t even conducted surveys on the loss of forest cover because of road projects.”
Locals blame the local forest user’s groups for being mute spectators and for not filing complaints with the Division Forest Office against such activities.