In a landmark decision last week, the Supreme Court annulled the government’s dubious plan to build an airport by destroying Nijgad’s primary forest.
The written verdict is still due, but the ruling has opened a path to plot a green runway on which inter-generational equity, and new economic opportunities can take flight in Madhes Province.
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Here is the path forward:
Tangiya Basti spreads over 1,000-hectares in Nijgad’s old-growth forest where families were temporarily settled in 1974-75. Its residents now span four generations, and are still waiting for the government to resettle them. In this wait, the settlement had transitioned from subsistence farming to full-fledged commercial agriculture. Some of the young men from here have become migrant workers in Korea. But the nearly 1,500 households, with a population of over 7,000, are still considered squatters on land that was going to be an airport.
Residents felt the airport project was their ticket out, and now think the Supreme Court’s decision means the government may not feel the need to finally relocate them.
However, Tangiya Basti was settled 20 years before the first plan to locate the airport here was even made in 1995. The promise of resettlement was never tied to this, or any other project. Cancellation of the airport should therefore have no bearing on their resettlement. It would simply be the right thing to do, and in an election year it may even be a politically prudent one.