Mahottari sees rise in illegal mining of construction aggregate during lockdownTwo journalists were threatened for covering the story about illegal mining in the district on Thursday.
Illegal sand and stone mining has increased in Mahottari ever since the government issued nationwide lockdown orders to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
While the authorities are involved in Covid-19 response and relief works, smugglers are busy extracting sand and stones from rivers and streams.
At Maraha stream, smugglers have been extracting sand and stones despite the District Court’s injunction that has banned mining of construction aggregate, locals said.
“Smugglers are extracting riverbed materials from the stream during the night,” said a Maraha local. “They are using excavators and vehicles even though there is a lockdown.”
On Thursday, two journalists from the Annapurna Post daily were threatened by the smugglers for taking a video and collecting news about illegal excavation of riverbed materials in the Maraha stream.
“A group of sand smugglers encircled us when we started to take the photos and video. They threatened us not to disseminate the news,” said Rajkaran Mahato, one of the journalists.
The smugglers reportedly fled when a team of security personnel reached the scene.
Kamalesh Mandal, chairman of Mahottari chapter of the Federation of Nepali Journalists, said that threatening journalists while reporting news is against press freedom. “We demand the police administration to stop the illegal excavation and take action against the people who threatened journalists,” said Mandal.
Two months ago, Gaushala Municipality had awarded a contract of Rs 1.5 million to extract riverbed materials to Anish Construction Janakpur.
However, the District Court in Mahottari had directed to stop the excavation of the stream for the time being after it was discovered that the contractor did not complete the contract process.
Ranjit Kumar Barma, information officer at municipal office, said aggregate mining at the stream had been banned following the court’s order.
“We have also informed local administration, the District Police Office and the contractor about the ban,” said Barma.
Shivanath Mahato, the municipal mayor, said he was unaware of the mining taking place in the stream.
“We had informed the contractor only to carry out excavation works after receiving the court's order. If the contractor has defied the court’s order, we will initiate necessary action,” said Mahato.