Work to recover Phewa Lake’s encroached area sluggish


BY PHADINDRA ADHIKARI,Lekhnath, Mar. 28: Pokhara was declared the capital of tourism amid a grand ceremony on the edge of Phewa Lake on March 17. The lakeside was earlier known as 'Baidam'. However, the Phewa Lake, listed in the Ramsar list, has been excessively encroached compared to all other lakes in Pokhara.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has repeatedly ordered to restore the lake, which has been narrowed down due to natural and human encroachment, to its natural state. It even issued a mandamus in June, 2023 to maintain standards of the lake and to completely green the 65-metre stretch from the middle of the lake. But the order has not been implemented yet.

The full text of the order was made public on June 24. The order had instructed the removal of personal, governmental or public physical structures within six months. But even the demarcation of the lake's boundary has not been completed by March 22 deadline.

On Monday, Pokhara Metropolitan City sent a detailed report of the work done so far to the Supreme Court Judgment Execution Directorate. 

Moti Lal Timilsina, Spokesperson at the Pokhara Metropolitan City, said that the lake area had been surveyed and work could proceed swiftly. He said, "We will mark the 65-metre stretch using GPS and drones and will decide whether to provide compensation or not." 

A facilitation committee has been formed to implement the Supreme Court Judgment under the coordination of Chief Minister Surendra Raj Pandey. Similarly, a technical subcommittee has been formed under the leadership of the head of the Survey Office, Kaski to demarcate the lake and submit a report and a subcommittee under the leadership of the chief land officer of Kaski to verify the land registered after 1974 and submit a report.

According to the letter sent by the metropolitan city, 29 permanent and more than 60 temporary control points have been set by using GPS and drone surveys. It also mentioned that data collection of the structures within 65-metre range had reached its final stage and coordination and preparation work was being done between Gandaki Province and the metropolitan city to remove the structures built within the limit.

However, the demarcation work was started only after five months from receiving the full text of the mandamus. The technical subcommittee involved in the demarcation has faced non-cooperation from government bodies. As a result, the subcommittee has had to start work from scratch due to the unavailability of digital data prepared by the previous committees. The committee members informed that the demarcation work and a report on compensation would be completed within a month provided there were no obstacles. 

Coordinator of the facilitation committee and Chief Minister Pandey said that at the first phase, 65-metre standard would be maintained by segregating four forts around the lake. 

According to the report of the Nepal-India Cooperation Mission of 1961, the area of ​​the lake was 10.35 sq. km. But as per the data of 2020, the lake has shrunk to 5.723 sq. km.

Anil Thapa, a rights activist and a resident of Lakeside, said that the Supreme Court's order was repeatedly violated. He said, "Our grandparents could drink water directly from the lake, but today it is all muddy. If the lake is not protected, there will be no lakeside. Eventually, we will lose the crown of the tourism capital." 

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