Nepal Government, Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation is going to amend National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act, 2029 and the amendment process has initiated by the Environment Protection Committee of Parliament. In this regards, the committee has organized district level stakeholders consultation workshops in Bardiya and Chitwan on 22 and 25 August 2016 respectively in order to collect valuable suggestions from the stakeholders during the process of amendment of the act from human rights perspectives.
FIAN Nepal has conducted a research study on the impact of National Parks and Protected Areas to the people’s livelihood focusing right to food issue of indigenous people who are residing in buffer zone area. The research study covered Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Chitwan National Park, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park and Banke & Bardiya National Parks. On the basis of the findings and recommendations of research study, FIAN Nepal has reviewed the proposed draft of amended Act from human rights especially from right to food perspectives.
Taking the opportunity to share the findings and recommendation of the research study and to provide feedback to the Environment Protection Committee pressurizing policy makers to amend the act from human rights perspective, a multi-stakeholder consultation workshop was organized jointly with Protected Areas Indigenous Peoples Rights Forum and Community Development Organization on 7 September 2016. The program was chaired by Ms. Indira Bote, President of Protected Areas Indigenous Peoples Rights Forum and a affected community from Chitwan National Park. There are altogether 50 participants were presented where 21 honorable members of parliament including official from National Human Rights Commission, CSOs, affected community members have taken active participation. Mr. Ashok Bahadur Singh, Program Director of FIAN Nepal, has shared the objective of the program following papers presentation as Mr. Somat Ghimire, a researcher and consultant of the study, has presented the findings of the research study, Member of Parliament and Vice-Chairperson of the Environment Protection Committee, Honorable Mr. Rajaram Syangtan has presented the process and progress of act amendment and Mr. Dil Raj Khanal, Environment Advocate, has provided key points to be incorporated in proposed act on behalf of CSOs.
Mr. Ghimire has highlighted in his presentation that the indigenous people residing in buffer zone area are suffering from autocratic system of National Park Act where their rights are completely neglected and deprived from access and control over the natural resources which are the main source of their livelihood. Giving examples of Bote, Majhi, Mushahar, Sonaha, Malaha, Tamang communities from the study area, he presented the fact of diminishing trend of agriculture as well as livestock rearing which are directly related to food security of those indigenous communities. Showing administrative difficulties, National Park authorities are reluctant to permit the traditional occupation of indigenous communities and depriving them to enjoy their human rights which are enshrined by constitution such as the communities’ license for fishing has not been renewed or not renewed of all the members, restriction to enter into the National Park to collect firewood and fodders, non timber products, threats from wild animals and very clumsy process to claim compensations of crops and domestic animals losses, etc. Sometimes physical threats and moral harassments from the security personnel of National Parks to the communities. In his presentation, Mr. Ghimire, has pointed out the new act should ensure autonomous buffer zone council and democratic National Park which supports the affected communities’ fundamental human rights to improve their livelihood as well as food security.
Honorable Mr. Rajaram Syangtan, Vice-Chairperson of Environment Protection Committee of Parliament, has briefed the process of the act amendment with the proposed points to be amended. There are 15 points where the committee has proposed for amendment which includes:
He further said that the feedback and suggestions provided by FIAN Nepal and other concerned stakeholders are very genuine and helpful to the committee and will be incorporated as far as possible during the finalization of the proposed amendment act.
The last presenter Mr. Dil Raj Khanal has presented a paper on points that shall be amended in existing act. He further added that the proposed amendment act does not address human beings and focused only on the protection of wild animals and forests. The act also fails to cover the essence of Convention of Biological Diversity, article 8, sub-articles (j) which talked about protection, sustainable use of resources and benefit sharing especially for indigenous peoples. It does not seem to address the sufferings of one-third population inhabiting in buffer zone area and hence only becomes favorable to government officials and National Park Authorities.
After all the presentations were over, the floor was open for discussion where representatives from CSO, communities and member of parliament have taken part. Community representatives from Chitwan National Park, Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park, Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve have shared their problems associated with their traditional occupation and livelihood. CSOs have given stressed that the act should not just only amend as per the need of government, however it should be re-drafted and contextualize contemporary issues with human rights perspectives to ensure fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution and hence the local community shall enjoy the benefits from National Park as well as Protected Areas through inclusive participation on management, equitable distribution of natural resources, conservation for its optimum utilization.
Members of Parliaments, some of them are members of the committee and some of them are from the affected areas, have also suggested to address the issues through the act. The parliamentarians suggested to change the name of the act from conservation to management because the word “Conservation” itself used only for the protection of wild animals, forests and biodiversity not for the human beings. Also the new amended act shall consider the mechanisms to minimize the conflicts between wild animals and human beings.
Chief guest Mr. Janak Raj Chaudhary, Chairperson of Environment Protection Committee of Parliament, has said that the research study done by FIAN Nepal is very important and have vital information including significant recommendations which shall be taken into consideration during act amendment process. He further informed the participants that the committee has trying to incorporate the suggestions and feedback received during district level interaction. He has expressed his commitment that the valuable feedback and suggestions provided by all concerned stakeholders will be addressed during the amendment process as far as possible. Furthermore, he assured that strong lobby and advocacy will be made by the committee jointly with honorable member of parliament during the discussion in the proposed amendment points in parliament in order to make the act more contemporary.
Ms. Indira Bote, Chairperson of the program, has concluded with her closing remarks. She said that the people of buffer zone area are living in threats of wild animals and facing inhuman behavior of National Park Authorities and hence their rights to live in dignity has been violating. The indigenous communities of buffer zone are also facing discrimination from the state in comparison with other elite people. The new amendment in the act shall guarantee the grievance handling and claim mechanism ensuring the fundamental human rights.
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