Illegal mining puts Changu area at risk

- Anup Ojha, BHAKTAPUR

Jan 18, 2018-

Rampant illegal mining of sand and soil from Manohara River and the area around it has weakened the base of Changunarayan Temple, says the chief priest of the temple. 

Chief Priest and Chairperson of Changu Narayan Development Committee Chakra Upadhyay says, “The devastating earthquake in 2015 has already weakened the whole area of the temple. Now illegal mining in the river bank and on the lower parts of the Changunarayan threatens the temple and the entire settlement.” 

The 2015 devastating earthquake reduced to rubble two of the four temples, including the four corners of the main structure. 

A local resident confirms the chief priest’s statement. 

“Not only temple, but the entire village will collapse if these illegal acts are not stopped,” says Ani Ram Khatiwada.  His concerns are valid. Around 200 Newar families reside around the hillock where the temple stands. 

The illegal sand and soil mining goes on unchecked in the western part of the Changu temple. The areas includes - Kunkul village, Jungal and Byashi. Miners ravage Ikudol, in the southern part of the temple, the most. 

Many local people have complained about the illegal mining in Manohara River. They allege the authorities have “not succeeded in bringing any substantial change”. 

Unesco has listed Changunarayan Temple on its world heritage site list. Considered the oldest temple in the history of Nepal, it lays 12 kms northeast of Kathmandu. 

One resident who did not wished to be identified told Kathmandu Post, “Workers of mining mafia use excavators to dig sand and soil from private land during day time. They use the same excavators to dig river banks in the night.” 

After visiting the area, the Post contacted Changunarayan Municipality Ward-4 Chairperson Buddhi Lal Maharjan. He agreed being aware of the problem. He said he has not been able to solve the problem. 

“Along with some local residents, I have tried to control this trend, but we have not succeeded. The miners steal sand and soil from the river and lower parts of the temple during night,” said Maharjan. 

Areas in Wards 1, 3 and 4 of the Changunarayan Municipality are more vulnerable to illegal mining. 

Six months ago, a separate police post was installed in Byashi to deter the sand ‘stealers’. 

But it has not been effective. “A week ago, we sent a letter to the Chief District Office (CDO) in Bhaktapur, but we have not got any response,” Maharjan said. 

There are dozens of private sand processing companies operating near by the river banks. Owners say they import sand from outside the valley. 

Local residents disagree. They say these companies earn huge amounts by stealing sand from the river during the night. 

They say, political leaders and sand mafia are involved in this racket. A full truck of processed sand costs above Rs17,000 in the market. 

Meanwhile, at many places along the river, construction of bridges is going on. This deposits piles of sand and soil. The mafia steals this waste sand too during the night. 

Bhaktpur CDO Dorna Pokharel said, “This issue has not been solved because of the lack of co-operation from locals and their representatives. The municipality has authority to control these kinds illegal of activities. I have already given a written statement to fully co-operate in implementing security in the area.” 

He said illegal miners arrested by the police are sent to the District Coordination Committee for further action. “I have noticed that, Committee officers just let go the culprits without taking any action, citing it as a minor issue,” said Pokharel.

Published: 18-01-2018 07:37

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