Riverbed excavation unchecked in GorkhaLocal residents complain that relevant authorities are not doing anything to curb illegal extractions from Marshyangdi river at Dhaptar.
As a blatant violation of prevailing rules and regulations, people are haphazardly extracting sand and stone under a suspension bridge over the Marshyangdi river at Dhaptar, Gorkha.
According to local residents, some local youths have been extracting riverbed materials below the bridge that connects ward 14 of Gorkha Municipality with Aanbukhaireni Rural Municipality-2 of Tanahun district for the past two weeks. They blamed the relevant authorities for not taking immediate action to control the exploitation of riverbed materials in the area.
“The government authorities cannot invite tender to extract riverbed materials under the bridge. So nobody has the authority to excavate sand in the bridge area. There is an apparent nexus of people from both sides—Gorkha and Tanahun,” said Ram Bahadur Khadka, the ward chairman of Gorkha Municipality-14. “The illegal extraction of riverbed materials in the bridge area has been going on for the past four years.”
He claimed that the higher authorities have not taken any measures to control the illegal extraction of riverbed materials in the area.
As per the existing legal provisions, the extraction of sand and other riverbed materials within 500 metres on both sides of the bridge is illegal. However, people are using excavators to mine sand under the suspension bridge in Dhaptar. The miners are extracting sand by digging a pit of about 300 metres in the middle of the river. The river has almost run dry in the area as the Marshyangdi Hydropower Project diverts its water for electricity generation.
A team led by the chief of the District Coordination Committee of Gorkha inspected the area a week ago but has so far failed to take any action to control the illegal extraction.
“The team returned stating that authorities in Gorkha alone could not stop the illegal sand extraction. They agreed to coordinate with authorities in Tanahun,” said Khadka. “Over exploitation of riverbed materials in the area is on the rise. Such exploitation will cause floods and landslides in the future.”
“Local people are also involved in sand extraction in the area but we did not protest as they assured us that they would help the community to build roads and other infrastructures,” said Pashupati Adhikari, the chairperson of Mulpani Tol Development Committee.
Adhikari, however, said that he is aware of the environmental risks caused by unchecked sand extraction.
“We know that excess sand extraction will expose the settlements near the river to floods. We had informed the municipality and the local administration in the past about the illegal extraction of riverbed materials in the area but to no avail,” Adhikari said. “We could not put a stop to the illegal sand mining as there is a nexus of influential people as well. We thought that it is better to let the local men extract sand within a limit although we do not have legal rights to do so.”
Himal Thapa, a local resident, has been extracting sand on the Tanahun side of the river after taking Dhaptar Tol Development Committee into confidence. Thapa admitted to extracting sand under the bridge area by using an excavator.
“The authorities do not invite tender to extract sand under the bridge. There is more sand under the bridge than anywhere else. We have been extracting sand from the area for the past few years. We are mining sand this year as well by taking permission from more than 50 local people,” said Thapa, who is the chairman of Dhaptar Tol Development Committee.
Meanwhile, Gir Bahadur Thapa, the chairman of Aanbukhaireni Rural Municipality, said that the local unit has not contracted anyone to extract riverbed materials from the river area.
“We have not permitted anyone to use machinery to mine sand. And I am unaware of such activities in the bridge area,” he said.