Dakka Camp is nestled among forests in one of the core areas of Shuklaphanta National Park. The camp is home to around 604 families displaced during the construction and expansion of the national park which began in 1977 and was completed in 2007.
When the park expanded its eastern front, dozens of settlements were relocated and around 5,200 families were rehabilitated by the Ministry of Forests and Environment. Hundreds of families now reside in various camps – Dakka, Tarapur and Lallare – settled inside the park over the years. Among the IDP camps, Dakka is the largest while Tarapur camp houses 180 families and Lallare 13 families.
Living inside the camps is difficult and dangerous, with residents constantly afraid of wild animals that not only threaten their lives but also destroy the crops they cultivate. Meanwhile, the closeness in which humans and animals live inside the park has not only affected humans, but also wildlife.
While humans live in constant fear of attacks by wild animals, wild animals see their natural habitats disturbed by human activities leading to frequent human-wildlife conflicts.
“Our life is hell in the forest,” said Hirasingh Bhandari, 65, who lives in Dakka camp. “We try to grow crops for our own consumption, but the animals get there before us. When the elephants enter the colony, we forget to protect the crops. We must run to save our lives.
One person was killed by an elephant in Dakka camp last year, according to Bhandari.
After its expansion on the east side, Shuklaphanta National Park now covers 305 km². Although it is among the smallest national parks in Nepal, it has up to 36 tigers, according to the latest census.
Human presence inside the protected area has proven detrimental to the growing tiger population, say conservationists.
According to Lakshmiraj Joshi, head of the Suklaphanta conservation program under the National Nature Conservation Fund, tiger density is lower east of the Chaudar River and negligible in the wider area to the east. Most of the tiger population is concentrated in the national park’s original area, Joshi said.
“Only a few of the big cats venture into the expanded territory, but they don’t settle there. They tend to return to their original habitat,” he said.
The presence of human settlements inside the park deters the tigers from roaming freely, Joshi added.
“Infrastructure development activities inside the park area also affect the movement of tigers,” he said. “The second phase of the Mahakali irrigation project is underway, as is the construction of the Kaluwapur-Belauri road section and the east-west highway. The construction of the Mahakali Irrigation Project in the north has divided the park into different sections. This has hampered the movement of wild animals inside the park area.
Dakka and Tarapur camps are located between Laljhadi Mohana Protected Area and Shuklaphanta National Park. This tight junction between the two protected areas is the traditional route taken by wild animals but human presence in the bio-corridor has affected the movement of wild animals, according to Manoj Air, the park’s assistant conservation officer.
Previously, herds of elephants migrating from India’s Dudhuwa National Park through Laljhadi Forest would return within a month or two of arrival, but in recent years they have been unable to return because their traditional route is blocked by man. settlements. “That’s why elephants are increasingly entering human settlements and wreaking havoc,” Air said.
According to Air, officials at India’s Pilibhit Tiger Reserve have also reported an increase in elephant-human clashes. “The traditional bio-corridor has been encroached by human settlements,” Air said. “Elephants find humans in their path and end up destroying huts and attacking people.”
The park is near the Indian border and hence is strategically located close to Indian National Parks and Tiger Reserves like Dudhwa and Jim Corbett National Parks and Pilibhit Tiger Reserve and Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary, a tiger reserve, which is contiguous to the south of Shuklaphanta. .
Encroachment of the park’s eastern facade by humans has also deterred forest growth, Air said. “People started cultivating forest land and started farming. They raise cattle in the forest which becomes easy prey for wild animals,” he said.
So far, 31 commissions and working groups have been formed for the rehabilitation of people displaced during the expansion of the reserve. But none of these groups have found solutions for rehabilitation, the majority of them spending their time deciding the actual number of displaced.
According to data submitted by the 28th commission, there are 1,480 families in need of rehabilitation while the previous commission estimated the number at 2,473 families.
The 30th commission recommended providing 10 kathas of land or compensation of 6 million rupees to the displaced families, but this recommendation has not yet been implemented.
The 31st commission was formed a week ago. But the displaced people have very little confidence in the last commission. “The elections are close, so they have again formed another commission. I no longer have any hope of rehabilitation or compensation,” said Manbir Oda, 50, who lives in Dakka camp. “They could have used the money invested in the formation of commissions and groups for the direct benefit of the displaced. But they choose to waste it by forming commissions and organizing meetings.