10628269_907218012635313_5674721000533560728_nProminent politicians join in demanding dissolution of Presidential Terai Conservation Committee.

A series of demonstrations by thousands of residents kicked off this month in Chure to protest the Nepali Government’s declaration of the heavily forested region as a protected, conservation zone in June 2014.

The decision, which has not yet been fully implemented due to relentless protests by Chure’s residents, will potentially affect the lives and livelihoods of five million people. The Nepali government considers a majority of these residents – most of whom have subsisted on the region’s rich natural resources and forests for decades – as illegal settlers.

The protests began with over 3,000 community forest users demonstrating in Makwanpur district on December 5. The demonstration was organized by FECOFUN and a committee formed by organizations who have been leading a national movement to protest the decision since past summer. The campaign plans to hold such mass protests across the Chure region up until December 23.

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The protestors in Makwanpur were joined by several prominent politicians from Nepal’s three largest political parties, as well as human rights and environmental activists from all over the country. The political leaders in attendance included Munu Sigdel, Pardeep Koirala, Chintu Lama, and member of the Constituent Assembly, Rajaram Synthan, who has steadfastly supported the Chure campaign since its launch. Synthan has also been advocating at the parliament level for establishment of community property rights in Nepal’s new constitution, which is expected to be finalized next year.

Another mass demonstration followed on December 11 in the Rupandhei District, with more than 4000 participants along with political leaders Bhoj Prasad Shrestha and Dol Bahadur Sundauli.

The political leaders all expressed their solidarity with the movement, and said that the Government’s heavy-handed approach to declare Chure as a protected area without consultation with the millions of residents who live there was wrong and against federalism.

The participants have also signed a joint petition to overturn the Government’s declaration. The petition will continue to receive signatures through the end of the year, preceding a two-day national level event planned in Kathmandu for the first week of January 2015. The event will launch a high level political dialogue between government officials and grassroots level activists representing Chure’s communities. The campaign organizers plan to invite Nepal’s Prime Minister at the event, where he will be presented with the signed petition.

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The petition’s demands include immediate withdrawal of the Chure declaration, as well as dissolution of the Presidential Terai Conservation Committee formed for Chure which has been tasked with the declaration’s implementation.

For more information, please read our previous post on Chure.