Excessive extraction of riverbed materials worries farmersCapitalising on high demand for construction materials and negligence of local officials, smugglers continue to haphazardly extract riverbed materials from Daraudi River.
The illegal extraction of sand and construction aggregates from the banks of Daraudi River in Gorkha district has affected the farming landscape of the surrounding areas, local farmers say.
According to farmers in Gorkha Municipality, they are facing difficulties in irrigating their farmlands, as the water level in the Daraudi river has been decreasing over the years due to excessive extraction of riverbed materials.
Man Bahadur Thapa, a resident of Ward No. 10 in Gorkha Municipality, says the excessive extraction of riverbed materials has increased the depth of the river, making it difficult to channelise water to the irrigation canal that feeds around 5,000 ropanis (254.36 hectares) of agricultural land from Beni Khola to Bohorabesi.
“The river has deepened in the last few years due to the rampant smuggling of riverbed materials,” said Thapa. “The riverbed is empty of stones even in the dam area of the irrigation canal.”
The district authorities and local bodies responsible for monitoring illegal activities such as excessive riverbed extraction have done little to dissuade illegal crusher plant operators from committing such crimes, allege local people.
“The people’s representatives and some district-based authorities are working in collusion with these smugglers. This has emboldened the smugglers to continue with the illegal business,” said Thapa.
Capitalising on high demand for construction materials and the negligence of local authorities, smugglers continue to illegally extract riverbed materials from Beni Khola, Bohorabesi, Khatribesi, Dash Kilo Phant and Masanepati areas of the Daraudi River.
“Smugglers use excavators to dig as deep as two metres into the riverbed. This is bound to have severe environmental repercussions. But crusher industries, even when they are operating legally, are only focussed on monetary gains,” said Mangal Lama, a local resident of Palungtar Municipality Ward No. 1.
According to Lama, three crusher industries are operating a kilometre apart from one another along the Daraudi river at present. These three crusher industries are operating between Chorkate to Masanepati areas without meeting the safety standards.
“The crushers are not allowed to excavate riverbed materials using excavators at night. It goes against the Standard Operating Procedure set by the local unit,” said Madan Bahadur Koirala, a local resident of Ghumnetar. “At this rate, we will not be able to irrigate our fields in the near future.”
The Daraudi River has been changing its course time and again because of the rampant extraction of riverbed materials.
“In the last monsoon, floodwaters entered our farmlands and damaged our crops. This is the direct effect of the haphazard extraction of riverbed materials,” said Jit Bahadur Kumal, a farmer in Gorkha Municipality.
Local residents are demanding that the authorities concerned control the haphazard extraction of riverbed materials in the district.
“The concerned authorities should take initiatives to protect the river and the ecology. But they allow contractors to haphazardly extract riverbed materials without conducting a scientific study,” said Kaluman Kumal, a local resident of Gorkha Municipality.
Following complaints of excessive extraction of riverbed materials in Daraudi River, the District Coordination Committee in Gorkha plans to send an inspection team to conduct a field visit, said Ashok Gurung, chief at the District Coordination Committee in Gorkha.
“The District Coordination Committee will soon send a team to inspect the riverbank areas. Local government should also take initiatives to control haphazard extraction,” he said. “An Initial Environmental Examination Report must be prepared before contracts are given to crusher industries.”