22 households in Udayapur at risk of landslides because of haphazard limestone extractionLime extraction has also endangered aquatic life in the Sunkoshi river since the residue pollutants from the excavation site finds its way into the river.
Todke settlement in Udayapur district is at high risk of landslides due to haphazard excavation of limestone. The hill the settlement rests on has started to develop cracks because of excessive extraction, locals say.
On May 2018, the Department of Mines and Geology had granted permission to KK Lime Industries to excavate limestone from Besara area. It’s been almost two years since the excavation work started below the Todke settlement that is home to 22 families. “We are living with the risk of being displaced every passing day,” said Hom Bahadur Rai, a local.
The cracks that first started developing on the foothills of the hill is gradually getting deeper and wider, locals say. The area, which is also home to various wildlife such as kalij pheasants, deer, leopards, squirrels, monkeys, rabbits and owls, is becoming unsuitable to support wildlife, say locals.
“Animals tend to stay away from noise, and the sound created by breakers (used to extract limestone) has forced animals to move away from their habitats,” said Tilak Bahadur Rai, a local.
Lime extraction in the area has also endangered aquatic life in the Sunkoshi river since the residue pollutants from the excavation site finds its way into the river. “River pollution is killing fish in Sunkoshi. But it’s not just the pollution, lime extraction in this area has also added to the pollution in the area, affecting neighbouring villages of Siddipur, Apraha and Dhodne,” said Tilak Bahadur.
The lime extraction industry, located in Mohanpur, Triyuga, prepares agricultural lime, colours and other raw materials used in preparing feed for livestock. The industry has taken 4.93 hectares of forest land to excavate limestone. Out of 4.93 hectares of land, locals cultivate crops on 0.5 hectares.
Local farmers cultivate turmeric, ginger, legumes and millet in Todke. But limestone excavation in the area is affecting this farming community as well. “The excavation work is putting our lives at risk and also threatening our livelihood. The residue from limestone extract is making our farmlands infertile and our produce unsuitable for consumption,” said Gadurman BK, a local.
As farmers, the locals of Todke also raise livestock, such as goats as a means of livelihood. Most now complain of how environmental pollution around them is turning the area hostile to supporting life forms. “It’s only been two years since the excavation work started and it’s already showing such adverse effects on the topography. Raising goats has also become difficult now with the water sources contaminated with residue from the mine site,” said Kabindra Rai, a local farmer.
The ward office in Chaudandigadhi Municipality Ward No. 8 says that KK Lime Industries has violated the set standard for limestone extraction drawn in the agreement signed between the Department of Mines and Geology and the industry. Shyam Kumar Magar, the ward chairman, said that extraction work started from the lower reaches of the hill as opposed to the upper part as stated in the set conditions. “This has posed a much greater risk to the settlement,” said Magar.
According to the set standards (co-signed by the owner of the industry), the permissible amount of limestone extraction from the hill per day is 120 tonnes. If the industry requires more than the set quantity, it has to seek permission from the department to do so. But the current amount of limestone extraction from the hill is more than 150 tonnes, according to the ward office.
The agreement also states that the industry has to construct check dams in certain places to reduce erosions, but two years since the project started, no such infrastructure has been constructed. The industry has also agreed to maintain biodiversity and preserve wildlife habitat. But the industry has violated the terms of the agreement so far, say locals.
Bhabindra Rai, chairman of the Todke Tol Bikash Sanstha, said that excessive extraction of limestone in the area has caused an ecological disturbance. He said, “The entire village is affected due to the haphazard extraction. The hill has started to develop cracks, as the industry uses heavy machines for extraction. That’s why we demand the concerned authority to address these problems soon.”
“The industry has excavated limestone against the set standards,” said ward chairman Magar, informing that the ward office will pressurise the municipal office to take action.
Ram Bhakta Pokharel, one of the mine operators, however, claimed that the mine extraction has neither harmed the wildlife ecosystem nor the environment as stated by the locals. “We are extracting limestone from the hill by adhering to the set standards in the agreements. The locals were against the operation of a limestone mine right from the beginning,” said Pokharel. He adds, “If in case any environmental hazards occur, we will take effective measures to control them on time. Locals need not worry.”