In a memorandum submitted on Monday 1 April, indigenous Magars have called on the Government of Nepal to immediately halt any preparation for declaring a buffer zone in Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve without consulting them or obtaining their consent as they are entitled to under international human rights standards.
According to the memorandum, the State policies to operate the Hunting Reserve on the ancestral lands of the Magars where their major traditional settlements are located have only served to provide entertainment for the ruling class and affluent elites from within Nepal and abroad. The Reserve has only led to the injustice and persecution of indigenous and local communities by denying them access to the natural resources in the Reserve, harassing them while they are grazing their cattle and collecting fodder, demolishing compound walls and houses of locals, and imprisoning and fining many on various charges, including for construction of houses around the Reserve.
The Reserve was declared, by the dictatorial Panchayat system of 2039 BS, in the areas of Rukum, Baglung and Myagdi districts within Athara Magarat territories of pre-modern Nepal despite protests by indigenous Magars. The memorandum states that the continuation of the Reserve, even after the restoration of democracy, is a disgrace to democracy itself.
Further, due to the Reserve, indigenous and local communities have been denied development opportunities and forced to live in extreme poverty, as roads and other infrastructure are not constructed through or around the Reserve citing ecological impacts. The memorandum mentions the diversion of Mid-hill highway around the Reserve as an example.
Referring to the ongoing preparations of the Government to declare a buffer zone around the Reserve, the indigenous and local communities expressed concern that the buffer zone is a ploy to ultimately expand the Reserve and further persecute them. Thus, they have demanded an immediate halt to the preparations of declaring the buffer zone and eventually scrapping of the Reserve itself or transforming the Reserve into a Community Hunting Reserve providing example of such practices in South Africa. Transforming of the Reserve would require that the Reserve not include Dhorpatan valley within its boundaries.
Calling attention to the International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (C169) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that Nepal has ratified and endorsed respectively, the Magar representatives have demanded the implementation of their special rights to lands, territories and resources as guaranteed in those instruments.
The memorandum signed by around 80 Magar community representatives of Rukum and Baglung districts was sent to LAHURNIP and has been copied to Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Minister for Forests and Soil Conservation and other national and local government authorities.
Scanned copy of the memorandum attached herewith with the unofficial translation in English.
Recommendations from Nisi and Bobang Village Development Committees in Baglung district and Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), Baglung District Federate Coordination Council and Nepal Magar Association, Baglung District Committee to LAHURNIP and copied to the authorities as above (in Khas-Nepali language) also enclosed.
- Nisi Village Development Committee Recommendation
- Bobang Village Development Committee Recommendation
- Magar Sangh Recommendation
- NEFIN Recommendation