Stone mining poses threat to Panchthar forest

Stone mining poses threat to Panchthar forest

Nov 13, 2014-

Local authorities in the district have remained mute spectators though a contractor working to blacktop a six kilometre section of the Mid-Hill highway and another section of the Phidim-Taplejung road has been haphazardly extracting stone from a local community forest.

According to Madan Pokhrel, former chairperson of Danda Community Forest, contractor Tej Kumar Kurumbang of Yakthumhang Construction Company bribed members of the forest committee by giving them Rs 175,000. “He also managed to silence those who protested his move,” Pokhrel said. Forest users, however, said even Pokhrel received Rs 150,000 from a contractor for stone and gravel extraction in the forest in the past.

Kurumbang has won a contract worth Rs 290 million to blacktop the road sections. Locals said Kurumbang along with other contractors extracted stone two years ago while gravelling the road and did not even pay revenue to the community forest. Gopal Baskota, who collected revenue from such local construction materials for the District Development Committee (DDC) then, said even the local administration did not help them collect the amount from the contractor.

Local Development Officer Tulsi Bahadur Shrestha said they asked the contractor to stop mining in the area and pay Rs 200 per truck in revenue, but the contractor was yet to come in contact. Sources, however, speculated financial irregularity as the contractor was yet to show the estimate and that Rs 200 was way too low revenue for a truck load of stone that costs up to Rs 5,000 in local market.

Local authorities, including the District Forest Office and Division Road Office (DRO), meanwhile, are involved in a row over jurisdiction on stone extraction. While the DRO claimed that certain area around the road falls under their jurisdiction, forest officials said the forest areas fall within their jurisdiction. DDC officials, on the other hand, said the matter falls within the domain under the Local Governance Act.

Chief District Officer Pradip Raj Kandel said the matter should not be blown out of proportion as it is related to development work.

Published: 14-11-2014 09:00

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