Development Vs Culture
With economic development comes modernisation of society. It is fuelled by technological innovation that brings efficiency and speediness to works. But the modernisation, stimulated by the big projects and concretisation of masses of land, poses a challenge to their ecology, culture and history. This is a reason why the concept of sustainable development was floated to ensure both economic development and preservation of nature. It is a balance approach of development that makes society aware of its surrounding. But when this middle path is dismissed, conflict arises. In Nepal, we have witnessed conflict between the locals and big project handlers. Sometime ago the locals in Khokana protested the construction of Kathmandu-Terai fast track that passes through their locality. They argued that the local culture should not be destroyed in the name of development. This is indeed very tricky issue, requiring high level understanding, consensus and compromise between the key stakeholders of society.
Now the locals at Chovar in south of capital city are at loggerheads with a construction company over building a dry port. The Nepal Intermodal Transportation Development Board (NITDB) is working to build a dry port in 816 ropanis of land used by Himal Cement Factory of Chobhar in Kirtipur Municipality-6. The NITDB has already dismantled the factory building to start constructing the dry port covering 200 ropanis of land and two exhibition halls in the remaining land. But the locals demand that the Board first settle the dispute related to 215 ropanis of land belonging to them. They claim that the erstwhile cement factory had possessed only 601 ropanis of land. The remaining 215 ropanis of land was to be acquired by the factory that started producing cement in 1973. The villagers have their land ownership certificates of 215 ropanis of land where they constructed houses with approved maps. During the last more than four decades, the land changed hands with many people buying and selling it. But problem has come to the fore after the Board claimed that this land also belonged to it.
The fate of construction of 15.5 million dollar dry port has been thrown in limbo after the Chobhar Preservation Committee stood against the idea of constructing the project that the government announced in the fiscal year of 2013/14. Last month PM Oli was scheduled to lay its foundation stone but the programme was cancelled in the wake of protest. As the government started construction activities, the locals have flown into a rage and vowed to intensify the protest. First, they want to sort out the dispute relating to 215 ropanis of land. Second, they are against the big project like establishment of dry port. Like a scalded dog, the locals are afraid whether the dry port would damage their pristine culture that has remained safe in verdant and serene setting. In the past, the entire locality was blanketed by harmful dust from the cement factory that damaged their agriculture system. Chobhar hosts historic gorge, Aadinath and Jal Binayak Temples and under construction a 33-feet tall statue of Manjushree. It is true that dry port does not pollute as the cement factory does but many archaeological structures are subject to demolition while building it. Besides, there is likely that local forests will be also destroyed in course of erecting the concrete infrastructures. It is wise the government resolves the long-running dispute and takes the local people into confidence before beginning the construction of dry port.