Under-construction eco park in Kanchanpur runs into controversyDivision Forest Office says it has not been informed about the construction while local unit and community forest officials say all required processes for the park’s construction have been fulfilled.
An under-construction eco park inside the Gadbijula Community Forest in Kanchanpur district has run into controversy.
The construction was undertaken jointly by the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation and Krishnapur Municipality of Kanchanpur district at an estimated budget of Rs 30 million. Various construction works, including the erection of concrete boundary walls and buildings, are underway inside the forest area.
However, all the construction works being carried out inside the forest area are being done without any coordination or agreement with the Division Forest Office, according to the Division Forest Office. In the wake of the controversy, the forest office has halted all construction works stating that the construction inside the forest is being carried out without the acquisition of forestland.
The forest area, which is located near the Macheli River bridge along the East-West Highway, also hosts a wetland area.
The community forest, in an effort to conserve the wetland area, had proposed the construction of an eco park. The tourism ministry had also allocated a budget for the same stating that construction works could begin once forest land is properly acquired. However, the municipality began the construction work inside the forest area without meeting the requirements first.
Forest Officer Balmukunda Bhatta, chief at the Sub-Division Forest Office, Bani, said that the forest office has not received any information from the concerned authorities, including if the Initial Environmental Examination report or the Detailed Project Report had been carried out before the commencement of the construction.
“Issues relating to the ownership of the eco park and land acquisition have not been addressed,” said Bhatta. “We stopped the construction as soon as we were informed that works were being carried out without completing the proper process.”
Bhatta informed that boundary walls and buildings have been built in around 10 hectares of forest land.
The Tourism Ministry, under the Tourism Infrastructure and Tourism Development Cooperation Programme, had allotted Rs 24 million while Krishnapur Municipality had allotted Rs12.8 million for the project. The ministry had sent a letter informing the municipality of the allotted budget in February/March of 2021, following which the municipality called for tender in April/May of 2021 and the construction work began in October-November of 2021.
Shambhu Tiwari, chief of the Division Forest Office, Kanchanpur, said that the local government was at fault for haphazardly constructing infrastructures inside the forest area without following due process.
“The municipality did not prepare the Initial Environmental Examination report before commencing work on the park and has not commenced the process to acquire land for construction,” said Tiwari. “The municipality even disregarded the ministry’s criteria of fulfilling the process of land acquisition.”
Meanwhile, Gadbijula Community Forest Chairman Akkal Bohora said that the Division Forest Office and the Sub-Division Forest Office were informed about the construction of the eco park. The ownership of the land would remain with the community forest, he said.
“The construction of the view tower, boundary wall and restrooms were underway,” said Bohora, “We will not cut down or remove any trees inside the forest.”
Likewise, Prem Bogati, information officer at the municipality, said that the eco park was being built in cooperation with the federal government and all due process had already been completed.
“The required process has been completed,” said Bogati. “The division forest office has stopped the construction work without any reason.”