Illegal extraction from Mahottari riverbeds continuesLocal units and stakeholders have remained suspiciously mum about the illegal activity.
Even though the government imposed a three-month ban on the excavation of sand and stones from the rivers in Mahottari effective for three months until mid-August, the extraction of resources has not stopped.
The excavation has only increased, despite the government ban, locals say, accusing the local units and representatives of inaction in the face of illegal excavation that has put the whole village of Khayermar at risk.
The ban on the excavation of aggregate and boulders from the Highway up to the Chure area came in line with the provisions of the President Chure Conservation Act. The ban, however, is clearly not being followed: it’s a common site that dozens of tractors are lined up along the river banks, loaded with sand and boulders.
“A single person owns as many as four tractors and one tractor can make seven round-trips,” said a labourer who loads the tractor on condition of anonymity. “All of the dozens of tractors are owned by seven to eight contractors.”
The two prominent rivers—Khayermara and Madaha—that cut through the district inflicted heavy damage this monsoon, deluging the villages and forests. Locals say the illegal mining would only exacerbate the damage. Local units and stakeholders have remained suspiciously mum about the illegal activity.
Locals accuse the representatives and members of local units of being involved in the unlawful activity.
One tractor owner the Post talked to at Madaha River claimed that he was encouraged by a local people’s representative to mine the river.
Assistant Sub-inspector Shambhu Prasad Sah, who is in charge of the Khayermara Police Post, echoed the tractor owner. “We have tried to stop illegal mining several times,” said Sah. “We tried to take the tractors under control, but the owners said the mining was for private use, as recommended by the ward chairs.”
Dhanlal Shrestha, the ward 10 chairman, admitted to having suggested that needy residents could earn through the mining of river resources.
“The locals pleaded that they needed to extract some sand and boulders from the river to build houses and fill the embankments,” Shrestha said. “We recommended that they extract but only the essential quantity.”
Ward-11 chief Dhan Raj Lama, however, denied that his office had given the permission to extract sand. Instead, Lama alleged that the police had done nothing to control the illegal activity. “Police have paid no attention to the illicit activities,” Lama said.
Lama contradicted himself when he said, “We did grant the permission to a certain few people who said they needed sand and pebbles to save their house. But only what is needed. It should be inspected whether they have taken away more than what was necessary.”
Mayor of Bardibas Municipality Bidur Kumar Karki said he was unaware of all that is happening at the two rivers. “The ward cannot recommend the illegal activity, despite what people ask for,” Karki said. “We will supervise and take action immediately in coordination with the District Coordination Committee.”
Suresh Prasad Singh, the Coordination Committee chairman, said the committee had not received any information even as the illegal operations had continued for weeks. “No local unit informed us about the breach of law,” Singh said. “We will inspect the sites and take immediate action.”