The business of construction materials like sand, stones, pebbles and gravel was one of the flourished industries in Nepal after the political change of 2005/2006.
The Chure conservation issue had drawn the attention of concerned authorities after the extraction of riverbed materials along the Chure-Mahabharat posed threat to the Chure region.
Conservationists and environmental campaigners along with then President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav started the campaign to conserve Chure after thousands of trucks laden with construction materials extracted from rivers were exported to India.
Later, the government launched the President Chure Conservation Program under the then Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation from the fiscal year 2010/2011.
Ten years have already been passed after the commencement of Chure conservation campaign.
Chure conservation area covers 12.78 percent of the total area of the country.
Former member of President Chure Tarai Conservation Development Committee Dr Nagendra Yadav said that the Chure conservation campaign had not moved ahead as per the plan.
“The Chure program was launched not only to stop the illegal extraction of riverbed materials but also to beautify the Chure region,” Yadav said.
Meanwhile, conserving Chure region is not a bad idea. The campaign to conserve the Chure region was started after the Natural Resources Committee of the then Parliament concluded that the Chure region suffered massive destruction.
Federation of Community Forest Users’ Group, however, had been protesting from the very beginning for launching a separate program in Chure in the name of conservation.
Though Federation of Community Forest Users’ Group had protested against the program, many had taken the program positively.
The main objective of the story is to point out the positive and negative aspects of the activities carried out in the name of conserving Chure in the past 10 years.
To make the President Chure Conservation Program more effective, the government in June 2014 formed the President Chure Tarai Madhes Conservation Development Board and announced to conserve the Chure region as per the Environment Protection Act 2053.
Chure region, the county’s youngest mountain range, covers over 36 districts from Mechi to Mahakali.
Though the concept of conserving Chure was a good issue, it was dragged into controversy in the beginning as the government announced to conserve the Chure by going against the Environment Protection Act.
According to Article 10 of the Environment Protection Act, people are barred from constructing roads, cutting down trees, creating human settlements and constructing schools in the places where conservation zone is declared.
Sindhu Dhungana, spokesperson at the Ministry of Forest and Environment, also admitted that there was a legal problem in the directive of Chure conservation. He said that attempts are being made to correct the proposed Forest Act 2075.
According to the government data, there are around 5 million illegal human settlements in the Chure region. There are more than 3,000 Community Forest User Groups. The government, however, is also not in a position to relocate 5 million people to other places.
The construction of temples and roads, among other infrastructures, has been stopped.
Though the government had announced to conserve Chure as per the Conservation Act, activities under the Forest Act is being operated in the same place. Both of them contradicts each other.
That is why, Chure Conservation Program was dragged into controversy in the beginning.
“We cannot imagine Chure without human beings. We have to organise various program to resolve the legal issue,” Dhungana said.
Politics in Chure
The name of President and Tarai/Madhes connected with Chure reflects the importance of Chure. But some believes the issue has been politicised by linking the name of President and Madhes in Chure. Federation of Community Forest Users’ Group was the root of the dispute.
Thakur Prasad Bhandari, Secretary at the Federation of Community Forest Users’ Group, accused the government of bringing the concept of Chure to weaken the role of community forest.
It is the responsibility of the government to conserve chure and the campaign to conserve Chure should be taken ahead at any cost despite having dispute with the Community Forest Users’ Groups.