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Illegal extraction of riverbed materials goes unchecked

- POKHARA BUREAU, Kathmandu

Jan 18, 2018-Riverbed materials such as sand, pebbles and stones are being extracted illegally without permission from local authorities in many parts of the country. Indiscriminate exploitation of river-based resources not only hits government revenue but also poses environmental hazards.

Local authorities have not issued permits to remove river-based materials from the banks of the Marshyangdi River bordering Gorkha and Tanahu districts, but smugglers have been mining sand from the river round the clock and trading it in the market.

Sand, pebbles and stones are important ingredients for making concrete used to construct buildings and other infrastructure. Gangs of smugglers, capitalising on high demand for construction materials and negligence of local authorities, have been confidently supplying stones, pebbles and sand from the river. Local police are believed to be in cahoots with such groups.

Locals complain that the smugglers are being protected by the Police Office and Majhuwa Police Post. A resident said that the police administration was doing nothing about the illegal mining and trading of sand from the Marshyangdi River next to the Krishna Temple in Anbu Khaireni. He said, “We have repeatedly requested the police to stop this illegal activity, but the mining continues unabated.”

A path leading to the river bank was fenced, but illegal transportation of sand continues unmonitored. A local businessman said that 10 houses of the KC family in Anbu Khaireni Village Municipality conduct sand mining in collusion with the police.  “When the police office is informed, it pretends to round up the perpetrators and lets them off immediately. If someone protests, thugs resort to violence,” he said. The KC family has been using an excavator on the banks of the Marshyangdi River as if it was their private property.

Likewise, a large amount of sand is extracted illegally on the Gorkha side of the river. Locals say that excavators dig sand in the mornings and evenings to escape public attention. Raja Raj KC, a member of the group involved in sand mining, admitted that the activity was illegal. However, he claimed that the group was in the process of receiving a permit from local authorities.

“We are not aware all regulations and laws. We plan to obtain a permit from the ward office,” he said. The group is involved in selling and distributing sand without permission for sand mining.

The police are quiet even though the river’s precious resources are being exploited using excavators, tippers and tractors a mere 500 metres from the police office.

Locals claim that sand is being smuggled with businessman, local gangs and the police acting together secretly. Head of Anbu Khaireni Campus Rishi KC said that illegal activities were going on unchecked on the banks of the Marshyangdi.

Last November, three youths armed with four pistols selling sand dug up from the river were rounded by the police. They were caught after the police received information from a high-level source.

Locals are worried that smugglers are carrying weapons in broad daylight. Police Inspector Lok Bahadur Gurung said that the police could not take strong action due to weak laws.

Likewise in Tanahu, river resources are being exploited in collusion with the police. The local administration has not been able to control this problem which is spreading at a rapid pace. Exploitation of such resources can be seen at wards 8 and 9 at Sukhlagandaki Municipality.

Some miners have been actively extracting river resources by showing land ownership deeds for a public place. Locals say that they are forced to be mute spectators due to fear of being attacked by goons. Stones and pebbles are smuggled from the Suraudi River in Sukhlagandaki Municipality round the clock, locals said.

Smugglers produce documents related to the construction of fish ponds if anybody protests about the illegal mining. Permits to extract stones, pebbles and sand are issued by the District Coordination Committee (DCC) from Katre to Myagde as well as Kyangdi to Dovan in Sukhlagandaki. Locals complain that river materials are being extracted by hiring local goons.

In Anbu Khaireni Rural Municipality, extraction of sand and stones is at its peak.  Smugglers don’t allow any person near the place by collaborating with local administration officials.

Stones and sand are mined and smuggled from the Kalesti, Riste, Paudik, Sage and Buldi rivers. Smugglers have been emboldened as police officers trying to take action are given a departmental notice or transferred.

The Tanahu DCC has issued permits to extract sand and stones from Katre to Pudighat, Haleri Ghat, Salbesi, Kaser, Kimaldada and Dovan Ghat besides the Marshyangdi River at Anbu Khaireni and the Seti River at Bhimad in Sukhlagandaki Municipality.

The Tanahu DCC issued a permit to extract Rs90 million worth of river-based resources this year while Byas Municipality issued a permit extract resources valued at Rs38.38 million from the Madi River. The DCC has remained silent over illegal extraction.

Sand is illegally mined from the eastern bank of the Kali Gandaki River too. Bishnu Kumar Thapa, chief district officer (CDO) of Baglung said, “We have not seen much extraction in our district. When we were on patrol, we rounded up some smugglers on the bank adjoining Parbat, so we couldn’t take action against them. We are endeavouring to stop exploitation of river resources by promoting coordination between the two districts.”

Due to indiscriminate exploitation of sand and stones, the religiously and historically important Kali Gandaki River has been disfigured.

(With inputs from Sudip Kaini in Gorkha, Pratap Rana Magar in Tanahu, Agandhar Tiwari in Parbat And Prakash Baral in Baglung)

Published: 18-01-2018 08:30

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