The 55th executive meeting of Pokhara Metropolitan City recently decided to reduce the areas of ‘building exclusion zone’ around its lakes.
As per the decision, property developers will now have to maintain a 30-meter buffer to construct buildings and other structures around Phewa Tal, the country’s second largest lake. Earlier, the limit was set at 65 meters from the lakeshore.
Likewise, the exclusion zone for Begnas Tal and Rupa Tal has been set at 55 meters from the previous 100 meters. For Lekhnath, Dipang, Gude, Maidi, Nyurini and Kostey lakes, the limit has been set at 20 meters.
The city’s decision has offered a respite to many lakefront landowners who were unable to build on their properties. They had long been complaining that the old restrictions were unfair.
Conservationists have a different take on the new regulation. They say the decision, which comes ahead of the local elections, could have a deleterious impact on Pokhara’s lakes. Human encroachment and construction activities, they worry, could pollute and shrink the lakes.
Bharatraj Poudel, information officer at Pokhara city office, disagrees. He says the decision was taken after studying the lakes and their surroundings.
“The boundary for Phewa Tal was set at 30 meters based on the directive of the lake delimitation and mapping committee, the Supreme Court’s order and the study report,” he says.
In 2007, Kaski district council had decided not to allow any construction within 65 meters of the lakefront. In April 2018, the apex court had also ordered all three tiers of government to conserve Phewa Tal from encroachment. It directed the Office of Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers to demarcate the boundary of the lake and coordinate with the provincial and local governments to strictly set a building exclusion zone.
Poudel says the new set of guidelines was issued based on the recommendations of a study committee.
A task force, led by Tirtharaj Adhikari, the ward chair of Pokhara-17, was formed to set the latest building guidelines around the lakes after the study committee submitted its report last year.
“The guidelines are based on the recommendation of the task force,” says Poudel.
People who own property around Phewa Tal say while they welcome the official decision, not everyone’s concerns have been addressed.
“There are still those people who own small plots of land near the lakeshore. The city has failed to address their concerns,” says Nabin Baral, who represents a stakeholders’ committee of landowners.