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Whose forest is it?

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017
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Photo: NT Archive

Photo: NT Archive

Editorial in Nagarik, 12 July

There hasn’t been enough thinking about how the new federal structure is going to manage local natural resources. This has to be done immediately to avoid future conflict. There is already a brewing disagreement about who should manage Nepal’s community forests, which has been cited as an international success story. The Federal and Local Development Ministry used constitutional provisions to decide on 8 July to hand over the rights for the conservation and management of community forests to local government units. The decision gives municipalities, village and ward committees the responsibility to run community forests and protect biodiversity. There are 19,000 community forests within the boundaries of the new 744 local governments. Nepal’s forest cover has gone up from 39% to 45%, and much of that is due to the sacrifice and effort of community forestry user groups.

However, there is now a danger that just like local mafias have taken control of local quarry contracts and sand mining along rivers, the community forests will also be plundered. There is also the added complication that the community forests of one village or municipality falls in the jurisdiction of another. Community forestry management should therefore be handed over to provincial governments when they are formed. Till such time as local government units have the capacity to do so, conservation and management of community forests should be the responsibility of the district forest offices.

Nature does not have boundaries. A tree cut today will take 100 years to go back. We do not want our forest cover to shrink while restructuring the state. On the subject as sensitive as environmental conservation, it is best to tread carefully so that we do not wreck the achievements of the past.

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