KATHMANDU, Aug 12: Representatives of all the 57 VDCs from three districts in the Annapurna Conservation Area have demanded that National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) be allowed to manage the conservation project for another 10 years.
Submitting a memorandum to Forest Minister Yadubansha Jha on Sunday, coordinator of the community representative group Dal Bahadur Gurung said that the government´s recent decision to hand over the project management to the forest ministry after six months would not have positive consequences.
“For last 25 years, NTNC had been managing the conservation project and it should be allowed to manage the project for another 10 years,” said Gurung, while handing over the memorandum to the minister.
Two weeks ago, the cabinet had decided to allow NTNC to manage the project only for another six months despite of the recommendation of the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (MoFSC) to extend its term for seven years.
Forest Minister Yadubansh Jha said that the cabinet decision was not appropriate and that the ministry has taken the issue seriously. “It´s a pity that the ministry´s recommendation was sidelined by the cabinet,” said Jha. He said that the ministry is holding serious discussions on the issue.
NTNC´s term had expired three weeks ago. “Ultimately our aim is to hand over the conservation area to the community. But first we need to prepare the locals for to take the responsibility. It will have negative impact on the conservation of the area if the government´s decision is implemented, “said Executive Officer of NTNC Dr Siddhartha Bajracharya.
The forest ministry had recommended extension of NTNC´s term for another seven years stating that it would require at least two years to formulate regulations for community management of the area. Similarly, it had recommended that NTNC should be given another three years to train the locals to manage the area and another two years to monitor management of the area by the locals. “We are discussing the issue but it will create a problem if the area is handed over to the local communities without adequate preparations,” said MoFSC Spokesperson Ram Prasad Lamsal.
The five point memorandum states that the local communities are ready to take the responsibility but not without adequate preparation.
ACAP covers an area of 7,629 sq. km. There are 57 Conservation Area Management Committees in the area acting as a watchdog of the conservation efforts of NTNC. “The decision of the government has confused and shocked everyone. The communities should be given adequate time before giving them the responsibility of managing the project,” said Juddha Bahadur Gurung, member secretary, NTNC