Haphazard excavation of riverbed continues in SarlahiContractors flouting standards mentioned in the contract, causing long-term damage to the ecology of Lalkhandehi river, villagers say.
The haphazard extraction of riverbed materials from Lalkhandehi river has resulted in unchecked deforestation and floods in Lalbandi Municipality of Sarlahi.
However, the authorities have failed to keep a check on the illegal excavation of riverbed materials from the area.
The local unit says it does not have the data on the exact amount of riverbed materials extracted from the river last year.
“I am not aware of any illegal activities in the area,” said Basudev Timalsina, acting chief administrative officer of the municipality. But a field visit conducted by a monitoring team on Thursday found the contractor flouting the excavation standards set forth in the contract, according to technical engineer Roshan Pandit of Lalbandi.
“The local unit has banned excavation in the area for now,” claimed Pandit.
Illegal excavation in the Lakhandehi area had led to the loss of almost 2.5 hectares of land at Nandeshwor Community Forest in Lalbandi Municipality-1, Nawalpur last year. About 10,000 saplings planted in the forest were washed away by floods in June. Nawalpur settlement itself was at high risk of floods.
“The entire Nawalpur settlement was at risk of being swept away by floods last year,” Roshan Neupane, a resident of Nawalpur, told the Post. “The upcoming rainy season too will be dangerous for those living here.”
“Last year, those living close to Lakhandehi river and those who depend on the Nandeshwor Community Forest for their livelihood had to face the consequences of illegal excavations in the river,” said Neupane. “The forest cover has saved Nawalpur settlement from being swept away by floods so far but deforestation has thinned the forest cover in the past few years. The people's representatives and government officials have been colluding with the contractors for profit. That’s why no action has been taken to stop the unchecked excavation of riverbed materials.”
Uday Bahadur Karki, chairman of the community forest users group, says the local authorities, including the people’s representatives, have ignored their concerns over the illegal excavation in the river. Thursday’s report has come as a relief to the community forest users group but more efforts must be made to conserve the river, says Karki.
“The contractors have been engaging in illegal activities, endangering the forest and depleting its resources,” said Karki. “We are protesting against illegal excavation and illegal settlers.”
The lack of monitoring and accountability has emboldened the contractors to continue destroying the forest area and the river, locals say.
A contractor is allowed to dig only up to 5 feet into the riverbed during extraction. However, last year, Mechi Mahakali Company had dug up to 10 to 15 feet.
This year, the contract has been awarded to Jalkeshwar Construction and they have dug as deep as 20 to 25 feet, according to Karki.
The contract was signed on October 8 last year for Rs 2.5 million.
The Environment Impact Assessment conducted before the signing of the contract had allowed the extraction of 651,354 cubic metres of sand and pebbles from a depth of 1.5 metres.
“But Jalkeshwar Construction were extracting stones and sand five times more than mentioned in the agreement,” said Karki.