Chitwan, Bhrikuti Pulp and Paper Limited is a paper factory built in the year 2042 BS with the help of the Chinese government.
Although initially owned by the government, B.S. Golcha group was running this factory after it was privatized in 2049. Among the six paper factories in Nepal, Bhirkuti, the largest, used to produce 1,530 tons of paper per month. It has been 11 years since the closure of the Bhirkuti Paper Factory.
At one time, this factory, which used to fulfill nearly 35 percent of the country’s total demand for paper, has now become a habitat for jackals. The Gaindakot Municipality is currently preparing to open a road from the middle part of this factory after it is no longer used.
The executive meeting held on 16th July decided to open the public road inside the factory as shown on the map. ‘Now a road has been seen on the land used by the factory. When we look here, it is not found that it has been privatized,’ said Madan Bhakta Adhikari, the city head, ‘we open the public road after understanding the privatization branch of the Ministry of Finance.’ He said that the road is going to be opened based on the demand of the locals.
Bhrikuti Paper Factory is located in Ward No. 2 and 5 of Gaindakot Municipality. About 400 meters of road with a width of 17 to 22 meters can be seen on the map. Locals have also requested to open the road after the closure of the factory. They have warned the municipality that they will open the road themselves even if they use dozers.
No one can encroach on government land. Gokul Sapkota, who is leading to open the road, said, “If the municipality cannot do it, we will run a dozer.” He said that the people here use this road to go to the Narayani river without the establishment of the factory.
He said that the closure of the public road caused inconvenience in traffic. Earlier, due to pollution, the locals were agitating to shut down the industry. The Bhrikuti paper factory, the pride of the country, has now become overgrown with weeds and has become like a factory. All the structures of the factory are dilapidated. The tin roofs are rotting and falling down. From the outside, only bones are visible. Machines worth lakhs are damaged due to rust.
The walls of the factory have collapsed. Currently, there are only 16 security guards to supervise the factory.
This industry was privatized in the year 2049 during the then Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. Golcha Organization, Kavra Group and Confraft bought all the land and structures. The workers say that the factory could not pick up speed after that. The factory had 60 acres of land. The factory is only 30 bighas. The remaining 22 bighas were used as housing. Lalit Shrestha, in-charge of pulp plant of the factory, said that they sold 8 bighas of land to Nomanic Nepal Company, which is producing sweets. According to him, the government had sold them with all the structures for 23.98 million rupees.
There is also a 5 percent share of the general public. The factory stopped production from February 2067. However, Shrestha said that it has been officially announced that it will be completely closed from January 21, 2069.
The government ministers have been saying that they will operate the industry from time to time. The then Industry Minister Matrika Yadav and Finance Minister Varshman Pun came here and promised to operate. 50 tons of paper was produced daily from here. Japan used to take 500 tons of pulp (money making paper) produced from this factory annually.
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More than 10,000 people in the country were dependent on the factory. Paper is made from straw, sugarcane stalks, bamboo, bamboo and wheat straw. All these were produced by Nepali farmers. Now, Shrestha said, the money has been wasted. There were around 800 permanent and contractual employees here. Some of them have gone abroad and some have been doing wage labour.
He said that even some employees of the paper factory have not been paid yet. He said that 333 people are yet to receive payment. One person said that he is yet to receive the money he worked for ranging from 5 to 35 lakh rupees. They claim that they are yet to pay employees around 35 crores.
Nepal Bank Limited has frozen the land due to huge debt owed to Bhrikuti Pulp and Paper Nepal Limited. It is said that the banks also have a large loan to take.