Stakeholders call for clarity on regulationsWith elected representatives already assuming office in over 80 percent of local units across the country, almost after more than a decade and a half, stakeholders have expedited discussions on natural resources, their use, the laws governing them and the roles the centre and local governments will have on the country’s forests, herbs, rivers and land.
With elected representatives already assuming office in over 80 percent of local units across the country, almost after more than a decade and a half, stakeholders have expedited discussions on natural resources, their use, the laws governing them and the roles the centre and local governments will have on the country’s forests, herbs, rivers and land.
At a discussion organised by the Federation of Community Forestry Users Nepal (Fecofun), an umbrella organisation of community forest user groups in the Capital, participants on Saturday expressed concern about the role of local bodies in the management of natural resources in the federal set-up. Stakeholders working in the sector of natural resources protection and promotion argued that the present situation doesn’t look promising as the centre has tried to keep powers within its grasp.
“Nearly 40 per cent of natural resources are still in centre’s control,” said Dil Raj Khanal, a lawyer and national policy facilitator with Fecofun, adding: “Such situation doesn’t offer exciting opportunities for the local governments which were promised maximum autonomy. The situation has further exacerbated due to lack of clarity in existing and proposed laws.”
Nepal’s natural resources, including forest covers, are unequally distributed throughout the country. For example, of the total 744 local units, 125 do not have forest of their own.
The newly elected local level representatives and community-based forest promoters have expressed concern about the role of local bodies in the management of natural resources, including forests, in the new federal set-up.
Experts have long been calling for properly planned state restructuring in relation to access to natural resources, as forests, natural herbs, rivers and fertile land could easily turn into a curse from opportunity as they could become a cause of discontent.
Since people’s lives and livelihoods are directly connected with natural resources, stakeholders have laid stress on clear polices so as to ensure that people can reap maximum benefits from natural resources.
But even after the elections of local representatives in six provinces, lack of clarity has left the stakeholders worried.
Citing some provisions mentioned in Local Governance Bill and Inter-governmental Financial Management Bill, Bill on the Distribution of Natural Resources and Finance Commission, which are under discussion in Parliament, participants said these provisions have rather curtailed the rights of the local bodies.
“These provisions want local bodies to work but not regulate. For example, local bodies are not allowed to register forest user groups, but they can collect royalty. These local bodies do not have the rights to sell natural resources. Neither the basis of royalty sharing nor the use of royalty is clear,” added Khanal.
These tabled bills comprise provisions related to local bodies’ functions, distribution of natural resources and sharing of financial resources collected among central, provincial and local governments.
According to Dilli Ghimire, an energy expert, the present situation and provisions have failed to differentiate between rights and responsibilities of local bodies, which has but fuelled confusion.
Stakeholders said that the upcoming policies should be people-centric Sushil Mainali, an environmental journalist, said: “People voted in local elections to get power in hand, conserve their local resources and benefit from them; not to allow the central government to take their rights away. So the new structure should give the local bodies the upper hand when it comes to available natural resources.”
Krishna Prasad Acharya, director general of the Department of Forests, said that the issue of unequal distribution of resources must be taken into consideration while formulating policies.