Regulatory chaos as stone crushers strike

- PRAGATI SHAHI, Kathmandu

May 3, 2014-

The country faces a severe environmental threat due to excessive and illegal extraction of natural resources such as sand, boulders and stones from its rivers, thanks to a poor coordination among the ministries to regulate the crusher industry.

The Ministry of Local Development, the Ministry of Industries and the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation are responsible for checking the exploitation of natural resources from rivers, forests and national parks. However, disputes on turf and a negligence of recommendations from another ministry have imperiled the sustainability of resources, officials say.

“We are responsible to devise measures and guidelines to strike a balance between developmental works and environment. But local authorities under the local development and industry ministries, which are responsible to implement them on the ground, do not support us,” said Brij Kishore Yadav, chief at the Department of Environment.

At present, some 200 crusher plants are estimated to be processing construction materials mainly for export to India. The Industries Ministry issues licence for crusher plants, the District Development Committees collect revenue while the Forest Ministry formulates guidelines for conducting environmental impact assessment and initial environmental examination.

Forest Ministry officials accuse the DDCs, under the Local Development Ministry, of aiding contractors in mining natural resources without considering the environmental impact as their only concern is revenue from the export of sand and boulders.

Levies on the trade in the construction materials have been an important source of income for the local bodies DDCs, VDCs and municipalities after the Local Self Governance Act (1999) and Local Self Governance Regulations (2000) gave them ownership of these resources.

A report prepared by the Local Development Ministry in 2011 said Tarai districts generate more revenue from the crusher industry as 90 percent of processed gravel and sand was exported to Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttranchal.

Last year, a committee formed to study the status of crusher plants recommended criteria on their operation for effect from the next fiscal year. It required crushers to be placed 500 meters from highways, 500 meters from a riverside, 100 meters from high-tension electricity grid and 2 km from schools and colleges, health centres and hospitals, security installations, forests, national parks, human settlement and religious and archaeological sites. Violation of the rule could lead to a shutdown of the plants.

Last month Forest Minister Mahesh Acharya announced that no new crusher plant would be registered until mid-June this year. However, protesting the move, Crusher Industry Entrepreneurs’ Association has decided to stop supply of sand, stone and gravel from Tuesday. Expressing solidarity, the Federation of Contractor’s Association of Nepal (FCAN) has said the government’s attempt to implement new criteria without providing an alternative to the operators would affect infrastructure development and construction works in the country.

“If the protest continues and crusher plants don’t supply materials, a time will come when contractors will be unable to complete work on time,” said Jaya Ram Lamichhane, the FCAN chairman. If the new criteria were to be implemented, say operators, there would be no place where crushing could take place legally.

Crushing facts

 -200 plants processing sand, gravel and stones mainly for export to India

 -DDCs charged with aiding contractors in mining natural resources without considering environmental impact in sole motive for revenue

 -90 percent of processed gravel and sand exported to India

 -Crusher Industry Entrepreneurs' Association in strike

Published: 04-05-2014 09:48

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