New directives to regulate riverbed excavationThe government is planning to introduce new directives to check illegal mining of sand and other aggregates from various rivers of the country.
The government is planning to introduce new directives to check illegal mining of sand and other aggregates from various rivers of the country. Following reports of excessive mining of riverbed materials, the government is preparing to revise the existing standards for operation of crusher industries and come up with a new directive aimed at regulating the overall sector.
Secretary at the Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoFE) Bishwa Nath Oli said the government would soon begin work on new laws to manage excavation activities from rivers. “We are working out new directives and reviewing the existing standards, which need a revision. The standards for crusher industries need to be made more practical as per the present situation,” said Oli. In July 2013, the government had introduced working standards for the crusher industries across the country. Besides setting the standards for the crusher industries to operate legally, the government had also imposed a ban on exports of riverbed materials like sand and aggregates. Secretary Oli said the standards were out of date and needed revision.
“The existing standards have prescribed similar rules for all the crusher industries. It should be different as per the nature of the river, their width, availability of natural resources in it, among other factors,” said Oli. According to the standards, the crusher industries should be placed at least 500 metres away from the highways and riversides; 100 metres from high-tension electricity grids and 2km away from schools and colleges, health centres and hospitals, security installations, human settlement and religious and archaeological sites. Under the existing standards, excavation of boulders, sand, and aggregates are banned from forests, areas inside the protected parks and Chure region. They also mention about the process of excavating resources from riverbeds. Excessive excavations at riverbeds have raised threats of environmental hazards and caused damage to infrastructure.
However, the excavations of such resources continue unabated in different districts. Over the years, the government has lifted the ban on extraction, collection and export of natural resources such as stones, boulders, pebbles, sand and aggregates, bowing to the pressure from the crusher industries with political backing. Even the standards were put on hold before being implemented.
According to Oli, the existing standards have some limitations, which should be addressed through revision and with new directive. “We need to strike a balance between our development needs and environment protection. So far, the implementation has been weak,” said Oli, adding the government had identified 92 quarries in a bid to shift concentration from riverbeds, but it failed because of poor access roads. With the introduction of new rules, the government aims to divert excessive excavation from rivers to quarries. “For stones we don’t have to rely on riverbeds, it can be dug up from mines elsewhere. So we have to explore ways to shift activities from riverbeds to mines for a long-term solution,” Oli said.