By Siraj Khan Nepalgunj, Sept. 11: In lack of rehabilitation flood victims of Banke have been living in the forest for the last three decades. People displaced by various floods since the year 1987 have been forced to live in the different forest of Banke because the authorities have not provided any support to them for rehabilitation and resettlement. “Nearly 3,600 flood-affected families are living in the forests of the district,” Ganesh Bahadur Khadka, information officer of the Division Forest Office (DFO), said.
“Every year, when water from the Rapti and other rivers enters the settlements, the people are brought to the forest for safety. But then, due to a lack of resettlement, they cannot move out and gradually, forests become their permanent home,” Khadka described the situation. Such activities of settling in the jungle have led to encroachment of the forest. According to the Forest Office, 575.72 hectares of forests have been encroached upon in Banke and nearly 42 per cent of those living in forests are not flood victims.
The DFO worries that allowing flood victims to stay in the jungle indefinitely has opened the door for non-victims to come and build illegal structures on forested land. “That is why the flood victims must be rehabilitated,” Khadka said. Janak Bahadur Tharu, chairman of ward no. 6 of Rapti Sonari Rural Municipality, said that the issue of resettlement and rehabilitation of flood victims needed to be dealt at the national level. Until that is done, he said, the displaced people have right to live safely in the forests.
The flood victims that The Rising Nepal talked to said that they did not enjoy living in the forests and would prefer to leave as soon as possible. But they have nowhere to go and no one to turn to. When asked what the authorities are doing to solve this problem, Chief District Officer Shibaram Gelal said that he would try to help in the rehabilitation of the flood victims and reminded everyone that the necessary decision would have to be made my higher bodies.