Chure region, covering about 12.8% of the total land area, dwells about 14 % of the total population of Nepal (DFRS, 2014). In recent years, Chure conservation and management has become a broiling issue of national debate considering its ecological and socio-economic importance.
Recently, a powerful ‘President Chure-Terai Madesh Conservation Development Board’ has been formed to plan and implement interventions in Chure region. There are mixed views on this decision, some stakeholders applauded outright while others strongly opposed stating the plan is conservation oriented and largely ignored the human dimension and the rights of the people living in the region.
The Chure ranges of Nepal fall in the peripheral frontiers of the hill-districts in the north and the fertile populated plain districts of Terai. Extending from Indus river in the west to Brahmaputra river in the east, Chure's width is 5 to 50 kms (CSRC, 2007). In Nepal, it runs east to west in 36 administrative districts mostly in the periphery covering 18,860 sqkms – almost 13% of country’s surface area. 14% of the total land in Chure is said to be cultivable (CSRC, 2007).
Until the beginning of 1950s, Chure was covered with thick forests and the area was inaccessible. It came under pressure when migrants began clearing the forests and started cultivation and settlement. The number of such migrants has risen up in the recent times. Although Chure encompasses 13% the total land of the country, it has not been able to draw the attention it requires. Scattered in so many districts, the residing community has a low voice and is always in minority. Negligence and over exploitation of resources prevails in the area. 65% of Nepal’s total population resides in the area of which population of janjatis accounted 67% followed by 17 % of dalits and 16% of others.
The Bikalpa survey carried out by CSRC in collaboration with other organizations in 2007 states that, between Makwanpur and Saptari 214 Peoples’ organizations have emerged. They have been federated at VDC level units in Sarlahi and Mahottarai culminating into ‘National Chure Conservation and Rights Forum Nepal’ which is a part of National Land Rights Forum.
Many issues surround Chure, one of which is the excavation of sand, stones and gravel. The reason being that Chure is the mine of sand and gravel that can meet the construction demand of the whole nation. There are sand and gravel based industries in the nearby areas.
Another major issue in the area is the eviction threat to the residents. The residents state that they are the ones who are actively engaged in the preservation of the Chure hills; however the authorities view them as destructive. For the proper conservation of the area, working with the people is a must.
With active participation through the National Land Rights Forum and Village Land Rights Forum, Chure residents demand that the ownership of land must belong to them. With regards to this, Chure residents from six districts (Bara, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari and Dhanusha) met President Ram Baran Yadav and handed him a request letter concerning the issues surrounding Chure area. In addition, the residents also conducted a public awareness campaign on the road from 6th to 12th Baisakh 2071 with the slogan ' Let's preserve Chure, Chure will protect us only if we preserve it'.
There is a major downside of not entitling the land to the people, the reason being they will not take care of it with long term perspective in mind which in turn results in decreased production, leading to uncultivated land. Having said that, entitlement alone is not enough, however, it can act as a beginning point for intervention.
An identity and advocacy for Chure is strictly required as the presence of government and non-government institutions in Chure is minimal. Managerial and technical support and educational action is required in order to bring the desirable outcome from the community forests –by making it inclusive and equitable.