Illegal construction aggregate mining business thrives in MahottariLocals have been pressuring the concerned authorities to stop illegal extraction of riverbed materials in the river but no action has been taken yet, say locals.
On July 19, a 16-year-old boy drowned in a sandpit dug for sand mining in Ratu river in Bardibas Municipality, Mahottari.
The locals, who claimed that the sandpit was dug without securing a permit from the local government, have been calling on the authorities concerned to regulate extraction of riverbed materials to prevent such incidents. No steps have been taken as of yet to stop illegal mining of sand and stones in local rivers.
“We cannot confront the people involved in the extraction of sand and stones. They are dangerous people,” said a local man. “Crusher operators extract riverbed materials in broad daylight and no one’s stopping them.”
The man from Bardibas-14, who did not want to reveal his identity due to security concerns, claimed that there are more than 100 sandpits, each of them 20 to 30 feet deep, along the banks of Ratu river alone. “These crusher plants are being run within a 500-metre distance from the river which has been prohibited by the law,” he said.
Phauda Singh Syangba, a local land rights activist, said: “The situation has gone out of control. Crusher operators do not obey rules and regulations. They have been emboldened by the authorities' silence.”
“Sometimes locals take control over the vehicles used in illegal excavation and hand them over to the monitoring agencies,” said Syangba. “But the concerned authorities let off the perpetrators after levying a small fine.”
According to the prevalent rules and regulations, the local governments as well as the district administration office have the authority to intervene and take action against illegal mining businesses.
Neither of these authorities has done anything to shut down illegal crusher plants so far.
Suresh Prasad Singh, chief at the District Coordination Committee in Mahottari, said, that the committee was planning to completely ban mining activities on local rivers for sand and stones.
“The law states that crusher plants cannot operate within 500 meters from the water body. But we have received reports from many locals that many crusher plants are brazenly violating the law and running their operation illegally,” he said.
Several notices issued by the committee to the local crusher operators, directing them to follow the regulations, have gone unheeded, Singh added.
“If they refuse to operate according to the rules and regulations, we will shut them down.” The regulations clearly state that crusher plants should be at least 500 metres away from highways and rivers, 100 meters away 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.
The majority of crusher plants in Mahottari are not adhering to these regulations.
Syangba, the land rights activist, said local governments have largely failed to take action against illegal crusher plants because some people’s representatives themselves are offering patronage to their operators.
“The operators offer handsome money or even use force to prevent people from making noise about their illegal activities. We have found that people’s representatives and crusher operators have an equal share in the illegal business,” said Syangba.
Bidur Karki, mayor of Bardibas Municipality, denies that the local government is working in collusion with the crusher operators.
“The crusher operators are using my name for their own benefit,” he said. “I will take strong action against illegal crusher operators in the Ratu river. I seek the locals’ support to stop the illegal mining of sand and stones.”
The local crusher plant operators that the Post contacted refused to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, an inspection committee of the District Coordination Committee on Thursday took action against 12 vehicles (six tipper trucks and six tractors) for illegal excavation in Ratu river.
“We have sent the vehicles loaded with sand and stones to the Area Police Office for further investigation. The police will conduct an investigation in coordination with the municipality,” said Singh, the committee chief.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Rajan Chapagain at the Area Police Office in Bardibas, said: “The seized vehicles did not have necessary documents to transport the riverbed materials. We are looking into their business and the crusher operators involved.”
In Mahottari, there are more than 70 crusher plants operating on the banks of a half dozen rivers and rivulets in Bhangaha, Gaushala and Bardibas among other local units.