Nepal asked the Indian side on Sunday to maintain status quo and allow Nepalis to use and cultivate around 50 bigha land in Parsa district that was lost while setting up new border pillars until the row over cross-border holding is settled between the two countries, the Kathmandu Post has reported.
The land patch has fallen into the Indian territory after a Nepal-India joint survey team marked positions for new subsidiary boundary pillars between the main border posts 391 and 392 in Chhapkaiya area of Birgunj Metropolitan City-1.
The correspondence was made to the Indian side through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to officials, the matter has already been taken up with the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu.
Several owners of the Chhapkaiya area in Birgunj came to know about their land slipping into the Indian side while fixing the boundary pillars last week. A team of survey officials was sent from Kathmandu to find out fact.
At a press conference on Sunday, the Department of Survey said the Indian side was urged to maintain status quo until the boundary issue is settled. Local residents said they have long held legal ownership of the land.
Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has met the minister for land and management, the state minister, vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, the chief secretary, the foreign secretary, secretary at the ministry, chiefs of security agencies and his advisors on the matter.
The PM is learnt to have decided that Nepali owners will use their land until the issue is settled with the Indian side.
Patches of land owned by either side are said to have fallen into the other side due to the bordering rivers changing course. This has generated claims and counter claims on both sides, Director General of the Survey Department Ganesh Bhatta said.
PM Deuba said the government would compensate the affected people or relocate those who have lost their land in the process.
According to Bhatta, the shifting of ownership was due to some past decisions. The international boundary between Nepal and India was demarcated in 1876 during the Treaty of Sugauli and later in 1860 and 1875.
Detailed maps were prepared based on the earlier treaties and agreements before the boundary was demarcated and pillars erected, Bhatta said.
Nepal and India had agreed to form a Joint Technical Committee (JTC) in 1980 to prepare the boundary map, to install boundary pillars that had gone missing or were damaged, to maintain existing ones and to resolve border disputes.
The JTC was mandated to prepare strip maps guided by the GPS, find data on encroachment of the no-man’s land, fix boundary pillars maintaining the line of sight, and number them east to west. The JTC prepared 182 sheets of strip maps in 2007 excepting Susta and Kalapani. After they were signed at the technical level, the process to fix the boundary pillars started in 2014 as mandated by a new body, the Boundary Working Group.
The BWG is working to fix the boundary pillars, maintain them, clear encroachment of the no-man’s land and handle the issue of cross-border holding. Bhatta views the problem reported in the Sirsiya riverside last week in this context.
According to the Survey Department, Nepal and India share 640 kilometres of river boundary, causing issues of cross holdings time to time as they change course. Local residents are perceived to encroach upon land after rivers take a new course.
In 1989, Nepal decided to fix the boundary with India as per the “fixed boundary principle” on the basis of the boundary map signed in 1860 and other documents. “Problems were created since we agreed to take rivers as the boundary,” Bhatta said.
Several riverside areas were registered and ownership certificates issued. But after 1998, when the government decided to adopt the “fixed boundary principle”, several plots of land fell to either side of the border, Bhatta said.
“The two sides are working to find the exact data on such land pieces. The BWG is collecting data on the field. Once the work is done, we’ll suggest both the governments ways to manage the problem,” Bhatta said, who leads the Nepal side of the Boundary Working Group.
He said the disputed land area in Sirsiya was less than what was reported.