DHARAN, Oct 6: Land mafias have encroached at least 42 bighas of land belonging to Sardu watershed area - the main source of water for the locals of Dharan Sub-metropolis in Sunsari district.
They are involved in the illicit plotting of lands and carrying out land transactions without permission from the concerned authorities. The watershed's area in Chotimorang Dada, Dharan-4, have been heavily affected.
Despite knowing about the rampant encroachment, local authorities and stakeholders have turned blind eye to their activities. More surprisingly, it has been revealed that Dharan Metropolitan Office is involved in providing recommendation in the illicit land transactions.
Locals and activists working on Sardu conservation have accused political leaders of Dharan, civil servants and even social workers for their involvement in the land transactions and encroachment.
Sardu watershed area is not only important for water source, it is also considered equally important in environmental aspects. However, land mafias have rampantly used dozers and excavators in the watershed area to plot lands illegally and open roads to their lands.
Chotimorang Dada and Kabita Kunja of the watershed area lie in Dharan-Bhedetar road section. In the past, those two hills used to be filled with trees and greeneries. Travelers and tourists used to be awed by those greeneries while traveling through the Nagbeni Highway. The situation at present, however, has taken a drastic turn. Not only the hills are now dried and deforested, rampant construction of houses has further deteriorated the area's natural beauty.
“Rampant use of dozers and excavators has given an ugly look to those hills. No matter how much we advocate against it, local authorities and stakeholders keep ignoring us,” said Krishna Narayan Palikey, water conservation advocate and former mayor of Dharan. “The watershed is a national treasure. Although the sub-metropolis has power to stop the rampant encroachment, it is obstructed by political leaders and corrupt employees. That is the main reason for the local body's inability to stop the illegal plotting,” he added.
It has already been over two months since local representatives were elected in the local unit. However, none of the elected representatives have shown interest to stop the illicit plotting in the watershed area.
“Permission has to be sought for plotting. However, none has approached us for it. I do not know what happened in the past. For that, Planning Department must be consulted,” said Dharan's Mayor Tara Subba.
However, Kiran Bhujel, an officer at the Planning Division, also expressed unawareness on the issue. “Although it is compulsory to seek permit from local units for plotting, nobody has sought permit for plotting in Chotimorang,” he said. “It is true that we have to put an end to such activities.”
On the other hand, the sub-metropolis office has been issuing recommendation for plotting despite knowing that it is illegal. This shows that land mafias might be colluding with employees from the sub-metropolis.