Illegal extraction of sand goes unchecked in Kali Gandaki RiverLocals complain that the smugglers are working in collusion with police personnel and government employees.
Sand and construction aggregates are being illegally extracted from the Kali Gandaki riverbanks in Baglung district.
Although it is illegal to extract riverbed materials from mid-June to mid-September, smugglers are rampantly mining sand from the riverbanks and trading it in the market.
Surya Pathak, a member of the House of Representatives, said smugglers are using excavators for illegal mining during monsoon.
“Illegal extraction of sand has gone unchecked in the district, as smugglers are working in collusion with the police personnel and government employees,” said Pathak. “I have raised the issue in the Parliament thrice, but no one paid heed to the matter.”
Last year, the Baglung bench of the High Court in Pokhara directed local units to formulate laws regarding the extraction of riverbed materials. The court also directed the units to conduct an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) before permitting mine operators to work in the riverbeds. However, the local units have yet to formulate the laws.
Baglung Municipality, however, claimed that it had conducted an EIA at the Kali Gandaki area. “We will invite a tender within the next month,” said Yukta Prasad Subedi, an administrative officer at the municipality.
According to officials at the municipality, they have not found any smugglers mining in the riverbanks during inspections. But locals complain that the smugglers are protected by police and employees of the municipality. The haphazard extraction of riverbed materials for commercial purposes poses a serious threat to the environment, human settlements and community forests in the district, according to locals.
”We have started facing environmental hazards, including floods, landslides and erosion,” said Tek Bahadur Sarki, a local resident.
The unchecked exploitation of river resources has changed the course of the Kali Gandaki River, which holds religious and historical significance, said Ram Sharma, a local legal advocate. “The smugglers have been emboldened in their exploitation as they are supported by the local administration officials," said Sharma.