POKHARA, May 3: Fewa lake, which used to spread over 22,000 ropani of land was found to cover only 9,955 ropani when surveyed four years ago. The area has not been measured again since, but an apparently ineffective anti-encroachment drive suggests that the lake has only shrunk further.
Land revenue records show that many land plots which were earlier part of the lake have been registered as private land. After the lake water disappeared gradually, the space exposed was encroached upon.
The issue has, however, become a tricky one as plots around the lake are now found to be duly registered at the land revenue office. On this basis, locals in the encroached area have refused outright to relinquish the land unless and until they are provided due compensation. Pointing out that they have been paying tax on the land for years and that makes the land legally theirs, they have challenged those concerned to go through the documents and other particulars if need be.
Ninety-six percent of the lake area falls within the VDCs of Pumdibhumdi, Bhadairetamagi, Kaskikot, Sarangkot, Chapakot and Dhikurpokhari. Only the remaining 4 percent is in Pokhara municipality.
During a discussion held Wednesday by the Fewa Lake Encroachment Investigation Committee formed by the government in March 2011, landowners in the 6 VDCs, locals and other stakeholders became quite irate. They stressed that ownership of any of the plots could not be relinquished at any cost. Indeed, they said they were ready to fight the government legally. According to them, the real culprits were businessmen in Pokhara who have been doing the actual encroaching and mixing waste water in the lake.
“Only the businessmen in Pokhara have been benefitting from the lake. They are encroaching upon the land and also polluting the water,” said Nirmal Paudel, chairperson of Pachase Water Area Committee. “People in our area have not gained anything from the lake,” he added. According to him, the investigation committee was only out to line its own pockets. “We want the committee to investigate what the businessmen are doing, but we know that will not be done, as they have high-level contacts,” he added.
The villagers have also criticized members of the committee that comprises hotel entrepreneur Sundar Shrestha, tourism entrepreneur Basu Tripathi, district admisitration official Rishiraj Acharya, engineer at Pokhara Municipality Sharada Mohon Kafle and coordinator Bishwo Prakash Lamichhane.