After the failure by the Rastrapati Chure Conservation Programme in achieving any remarkable output despite the huge investment and attention since its inception in fiscal year 2010-2011, a new committee chaired by former Finance Minister Rameshowr Khanal was formed in June this year.
A cabinet meeting held on June 17 decided to declare Chure as an ecological conservation area and formed a high-level technical committee, the Chure-Tarai Madhes Conservation Development Committee, which was mandated with coming up with comprehensive and result-oriented activities to protect the fragility of the region. The region is reeling under extreme threats of environmental degradation. The region covers around 12.78 percent of the total area spanning over 36 districts and is home to around five million people.
The excessive use of forest products such as timber and illegal logging, open grazing and unscientific land use practices are considered as the key threats in the Chure region, along with the occurrence of frequent natural disasters such as floods and landslides every year. The decision to declare Chure as an ecological conservation area and the formation of the committee was not accepted by the community forestry users, who saw the move as a curtailing of the rights of the local communities over the region’s natural resources. On this regard, the Federation of Community Forestry Users’ Nepal (FECOFUN), an umbrella organisation of around 18,000 community users’ groups in Nepal, have been recently organising protests at district levels.
However, Khanal says that the committee was formed with the mandate of working for Chure programmes, and that these are multi-stakeholder, multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral in nature.
“Local communities including forest users’ groups are our primary partners and beneficiaries of the project activities,” says Khanal. “We cannot move ahead and protect Chure without their active engagement and partnership”.
The committee has already started involving local agencies as partners in the implementation of programme activities and has selected four to ten partner organisations in each working district. “We want to ensure that the rights of the people living along the region and dependent on its resources are protected,” says Khanal.
In the six months since its establishment, the committee has come up with quite a few programmes: It has drafted a 20-year master plan for the Chure region, launched an integrated river-system management project in four major river systems flowing along the region and partnered with local agencies, communities and local bodies in 28 districts so far, says Khanal. “We are planning to expand our activities to 31 districts within the next fiscal year.”
Similarly, the committee has also decided to come up with appropriate standards and guidelines to allow the extraction and utilisation of resources such as sand, boulders, stones and minerals for development activities and local use within the Chure region. “The sustainable management of the resources will be encouraged,” says Khanal.