Stone extraction rampant in Chure’s rivers and streamsThe government has set up subdivision forest offices in Lahan, Dhangadhi, Siraha, Mirchaiya, Jamdaha and Bandipur to protect the forest areas, keep a check on illegal extraction of riverbed materials and to curb smuggling activities.
Despite the government’s ban, illegal extraction of riverbed materials from the Chure range is still rampant in Siraha district.
The Chure area, which covers around 13 percent of the country’s total area, is prone to natural hazards such as floods, landslides and erosion because of excessive extraction of riverbed materials.
However, people are still haphazardly extracting aggregates from the rivers in Balan, Jhirhari, Gagan and Khatti, among other parts, of the Chure region. The excavated materials are being exported by contractors of construction companies, say locals.
“Stone smugglers are working in collusion with the forest employees,” said Pardip Mahato, a local.
The government has set up subdivision forest offices in Lahan, Dhangadhi, Siraha, Mirchaiya, Jamdaha and Bandipur to protect the forest areas, keep a check on illegal extraction of riverbed materials and to curb smuggling activities. However, the forest offices do not conduct regular patrolling.
“We have informed the forest officials about the illegal extraction time and again. But the forest office has not paid any attention to our complaints,” said Mahato.
The government had declared the Chure area as an Environment Conservation Area on June 16, 2014.
“The smugglers are still using tractors to extract stones from prohibited zones,” said Mahato. “The forest officials, meanwhile, are being mute spectators.”
Meanwhile, forest officials blame the local units of encouraging construction companies and smugglers to continue with the illegal extraction.
“The local units have signed contracts regarding the use of stones, pebbles and sand from rivers and streams. And by taking advantage of such contracts, the contractors haphazardly excavate riverbed materials. We are unable to inspect the area due to limited human resources,” said Subhash Chandra Das, division forest officer.
According to Forest Act (1993) and Forest Regulation (1955), the forest office can charge a person Rs 1.5 for smuggling one cubic metre of stone, and fine a vehicle up to Rs 10,000 (as bail) for carrying stones.
“One tractor can carry 100 cubic metres of stones. Even if we fine them, the amount is negligible. It amounts to only Rs 150 for smuggling 100 cubic metres of stones, whereas the smugglers sell the materials for Rs 3,200,” Das said. “That is also why the smugglers feel emboldened to continue with the illegal activity.”
According to Das, the Forest Act and Forest Regulation should be amended to update the legal system and increase the fines.
“The local authorities should restrict tractors that were distributed in agriculture grant from carrying riverbed materials and forest products,” said Das.