Implementation of court order on Phewa Lake delaying

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BY Phadindra Adhikari,Lekhnath, Feb. 26: A Supreme Court's order rules that the structures within 65 metres of Phewa Lake should be demolished within one month. However, the Pokhara Metropolitan City and Gandaki Provincial government wasted five months without taking any action.

A committee was formed under Chief Minister Surendra Raj Pandey on November 29, 2023, two months after the full text of the verdict was released. The verdict said all the demolition work had to be completed within six months. 

Dhan Raj Acharya, the Mayor of Pokhara Metropolitan City, heads of security agencies in the district, and the chief district officer of Kaski are members of the committee.

The sub-committee formed by this committee for demarcation has recently commenced its work. Discussions are ongoing regarding the mapping method. The technical committee headed by Ganga Lal Pokharel has initiated fieldwork after completing internal preparations.

Mayor Acharya, who is also a committee member, informed that the committee has convened three times to date. “Currently, both the main committee and the sub-committees are actively engaged in their respective tasks. The provincial, federal, and local governments will collaborate to protect the Phewa Lake,” he added.

Chief Minister Pandey expressed confidence in working within the time limit set by the Supreme Court. “We should adhere to the timeline provided by the court,” he said. 

According to him, the four embankments around the lake will be demarcated, maintaining the standard distance of 65 metres.

In June last year, the Supreme Court issued an order to uphold Phewa Lake's standards and remove all encroachments. The order mandated the removal of all personal, governmental or public structures within six months from the date of the issuance of the order. Likewise, it stipulated the declaration of the central area of 65 metres around the lake as a fully green zone.

In the report of the Nepal-India Cooperation Mission of 2018, the area of the Phewa Lake was recorded as 10.35 square km. However, according to the gazette issued on March 30, 2021, the area has shrunk significantly to only 5.726 square km. The city of Pokhara has disregarded the Supreme Court's decision made on November 22, 2018, by lowering the standard of the lake.

On June 19, 2023, the Supreme Court ordered the maintenance of the standard at 65 metres and the full text of the decision was made public on September 26, 2023.

The court ruled to cancel the land registration of the area covered by the lake until 1974 through a transfer order. The Supreme Court maintains that no compensation should be provided for this land. Accordingly, while upholding the standards, 1,692 structures needed removal without compensation. Following the construction of the dam in 2018, compensation should only be provided for the land beyond 65 metres of the lake. This would entail compensating 700 ropanis of land.

The high-level committee led by Bishwa Prakash Lamichhane, formed in 2006, highlighted that there were around 400 structures within these 700 ropanis of land. Over the last 11 years, hundreds more structures have been erected in this area.

Lamichhane said that heritage conservation has entered a new era following the implementation of federalism. “The Supreme Court's order is based on our recommendations. With clarity on issues such as the criteria for measuring standards and identifying lands eligible for compensation, it is now the responsibility of the government to safeguard Phewa Lake,” he added.

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