SheyPhoksundo National Park Security post still remaining empty
Locals of Shey Phoksundo Rural Municipality, Dolpa district, have been forced to walk for seven days to get service as the government offices that had moved down to the lower land with the onset of winter have not returned yet.
Army personnel, SheyPhoksundo National Park officials, health workers and teachers were still at the lower land until May 6. All the officials are residing in Bheri Municipality and Tripura Sundari Municipality from where people have to walk just three hours to enter the National Park.
Along with a sparse human population, the Himalayan region is home to many endangered wild animals, valuable herbs, second deepest Lake of Nepal SheyPhoksundo,SheyPhoksundo River and waterfalls.
However, the government offices are still providing services from the district headquarters though the people have returned to the upper regions as they are used to doing with the arrival of summer. The National Park administration, security and health posts in the upper region are still shut.
Locals said that they had to walk for days to receive the government services and facilities due to the absence of state. The poaching of endangered animals has increased. Timber smugglers are cutting down trees in the forests. There is a security challenge in the national park buffer zone.
The head office of SheyPhoksundo National Park, army battalion, health posts, security personnel, teachers, local level offices are stationed at the district headquarters in Dunai. “There are basically two types of problems. One is that the officials of National Park and security personnel who had moved to the lower land with the onset of winter have not returned to the offices on time,” said Phoksundo Buffer Zone Consumers Committee Chairman PhurbaTenzing Buda, adding, “Officials move to the lower land before the locals and do not return to the highland on time.”
According to Buda, the National Park administration and Nepal Army battalion that were shifted to lower land during the decade-long Maoist insurgency have not been reinstated yet. “Everything is in highland but the government is not there. How the government can protect the National Park by staying in the buffer zone?” he questioned.
The Head Office of National Park was based in Palam before the Maoist insurgency. SheyPhoksundo Rural Municipality is just one-and-a-half hours walk from Palam. Now, the office is at Suligand of ThuliBheri Municipality-10, which is close to the buffer zone.
Nepal Army battalion was inside the National Park at Sunduwa in SheyPhoksundo Rural Municipality-9. Now, the battalion is based at Tripura Sundari Municipality-2. But 99 percent area of the SheyPhoksundo National Park is in upland.
Apart from SheyPhoksundo Rural Municipality, seven wards lie in Upper Dolpa, only 8 and 9 wards are situated in Rigma, close to the SheyPhoksundo Lake. “All the offices of national park and police posts across the country were reinstated after the insurgency, but the office of SheyPhoksundo Park and police post are yet to be reinstated,” Chairman Buda said.
Incumbent Warden of SheyPhoksundo National Park Pramod Kumar Yadav admitted that the office has not moved to the highland on time. “We don’t have sufficient staffers as per the deputation. That is why we are facing the problem,” he said. Though six rangers were deployed in the National Park, only two are working at present.
Locals of Upper Dolpa have been forced to walk for six days to reach the Suligand-based National Park Head Office to get approval for collecting wooden logs, prepare documents for building houses as the park staffers haven’t moved back to highland on time. On the other hand, the local administration has decided to open National Park to collect Yarsagumba from May 28. The concerned stakeholders emphasise the need for state presence.
Captain Kumar Thapa of Ishwori Box Battalion, which has been tasked with the responsibility to protect the National Park, said that they could not move to the highland as the contractor has not supplied the ration on time. “Our team is still based at Sunduwa. The team keeps on moving back and forth to highland and lowland. We have been deploying patrol team from Suligand to Sunduwa from this place,” he said. “We are preparing to go immediately.”
The posts on the way to the highland from Suligand are all closed for now. The National Park administration, which has been taking the responsibility of the National Park, and the check post of Nepal Army, which is near the SheyPhoksundo Lake, are also closed. Warden Yadav said that shifting the National Park and Nepal Army Head Office does not fall under his responsibility. “The centre should take this decision. We are ready to go anywhere,” he said.
There is no check post of Nepal Army in Upper Dolpa as of today. Though the National Park has established a check post in Dhoma of Upper Dolpa, no one has reached the check post yet. Similarly, a contract has been awarded to construct a check post in Saldang this year. National Park covers two rural municipalities— SheyPhoksundo of Dolpa and Jagadulla. Ninety nine percent area of SheyPhoksundo and 60 percent area of Jagadulla fall under the National Park.
One rural municipality and some wards of Mugu also fall under the area of National Park. Ward Chairman of SheyPhoksundo Rural Municipality-8 Nima Lama lamented that the locals have been facing a problem as the staffers of National Park have not returned to highland yet.
Saying it is sheer negligence on the part of National Park administration to not send rangers and game scouts in highland on time, Lama questioned, “Who will provide services to the people if the government offices do no come to the highland?” Amchi Hospital in Chunubar, which was opened with the financial assistance from World Wildlife Fund (WWF), was operational till last year. Now the hospital has shut down. Aang Bahadur Lama of Pungmo, SheyPhoksundo Rural Municipality-8 said that the hospital was closed after the death of a local. The hospital has now been turned into a store.
A health post at Chunubar has also been closed. At a time when the government has been launching polio vaccination campaign across the country, the health post of this place has been closed. The office of SheyPhoksundo Rural Municipality is also based in Saldang of Upper Dolpa. Though the meeting of village council has been conducted in Saldang, all the other works are being carried out from Dunai, the district headquarters of Dolpa. All the ward chairmen work from Dunai. The locals of Upper Dolpa are compelled to go to Dunai to get the service
--Face to Face (news portal of Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists-- NEFEJ