A cement industry based in Jodeni of Sunwal-11 in Nawalparasi West has reportedly intruded the public forest area.
Following the complaint of locals about it, National Assembly member Ram Lakhan Harijan and District Coordination Committee (DCC) chief Shiba Shankar Raya went for a field visit to the site and came up with the finding supporting the locals’ claim.
The evaluation of the team is that the industry has violated the agreement reached with the government as well. The forest area having been encroached upon by the industry belongs to the Bhagawati Community Forest Users’ Group.
A national forest area spreading in nine kattha of land (one kattha is equivalent to about 6,773 square meters) has been given to the industry for use maximum for 30 years beginning from 2073 BS. The property, however, remains under the government ownership.
As per the 2073 BS agreement, the industry is allowed to use the area to store raw materials and building some infrastructure including a weighing room and a power substation room.
In return, it is legally obliged to purchase the equal area of private land and pass its ownership over to the government, otherwise, the permission to use the forest land will automatically become null and void. But this has not happened so far. Instead, the industry is unlawfully using additional two bigha of forest land. The responsibility of protecting forest property (plants) is of the industry itself.
More, as per the agreement, the industry has to plant 1,600 tree seedlings per hectare on the land needs to be compensated to the government and hand over the forest to the District Forest Office within the five years.
“The public property has been largely misused and it has drawn our attention,” said the lawmaker.
DCC chief Raya said the industry has also not spent one percent of its net profit in the protection of bio-diversity and environment including forest conservation as stipulated in the agreement.
The industry is also charged of blocking the water sources of the rivers and streams that flow through the forest area, and using them without taking permission from the Department of Forests.
He said the monitoring body comprising the director of the western region forest directorate and the district forest officer has also not carried out the monitoring whether or not the industry has followed the conditions stipulated in the agreement.
The director is the coordinator and the district forest officer the member-secretary of the monitoring body.
The agreement states that the government can unilaterally annul the agreement if the industry failed to follow the conditions.
Lawmaker Harijan said it was wrong to run the industry by destroying the forest.
Moreover, according to him, the industry has used the forest area outside the industry as a parking area due to which plants and bushes there are dying.
He vowed that he would raise this issue in the National Assembly, the upper house of the federal parliament, and draw attention of the government. It is stated that the DCC has written to the Division Forest Office asking it to furnish the reality of this issue.
However, the Division Forest Office has not yet responded to the DCC.
Similarly, the attention of the district administration office had also been drawn over the forest encroachment issue and the district administration has also not shown any concern, lawmaker Harijan said.