Tinau river is shrinking due to human activitiesEncroachment and rampant mining in the Chure area are the reasons behind the shrinking of the Tinau river.
Dayaram Neupane, 72, had migrated to Butwal from Argeli of Palpa district in 1966. He remembers the time when the flooded Tinau ravaged Butwal and its surrounding area in 1980.
A resident of Butwal Sub-metropolis-12, Neupane says the only human activity along the river banks back then used to be farming.
“Farmers used to dig irrigation canals to irrigate their paddy fields. But now, the river is dying. Its banks have been turned into towns,” he said.
Over the decades, human encroachment of the river and its banks has turned the once mighty river into a shadow of its former self.
The headwaters of the Tinau river originate in Palpa, a hill district of Lumbini Province. The river passes through the Mahabharat and Chure ranges before it enters Butwal in Rupandehi district.
Conservationists say human encroachment and the rampant and haphazard extraction of sand, pebbles and stone in the Chure area are the reasons behind the shrinking of the Tinau river.
“The exploitation of the Chure region has diminished the river’s size. The forest area is being cleared and the river bed materials are being extracted rampantly in the watershed area,” said Mahendra Pandey, a conservationist at Tinau Rural Municipality-3 in Palpa. “It used to be difficult to cross the river in the past. Now, the river is the size of a small brook.”
As urban settlements grew and stone quarries were set up to extract limestone for cement factories in Palpa, the river shrank even more.
“The limestone quarries are the small sources of water for the river. But even those sources are drying up,” said Pandey. According to him, the construction of roads through the forest area, concretisation of irrigation canals and lack of afforestation programme have greatly affected the ecology of the area.
“Authorities are not concerned about conserving the Tinau,” Pandey said.
The 95-kilometre-long Tinau river flows through the Chure range from Kerabari of Palpa to Butwal in Rupandehi district.
“The river area has shrunk with human settlements set up on its banks. The exploitation in its watershed area has left the river dying,” said Ram Prasad Paudel, the former chairman of the President Chure Madhes Conservation Committee.
Mahesh Raj Bhandari, whose family in 1968 migrated to Khasauli, another settlement near Butwal, says the river used to be so deep that people had to use a bridge to cross it.
“The locals used to drink water from the Tinau river. But now there is hardly any sign of the river,” said Bhandari.
The use of heavy equipment for the extraction of riverbed materials is illegal but local residents say that smugglers continue to use such equipment to take out aggregates. On Tuesday alone, a number of excavators and trucks were seen extracting and transporting sand, pebbles and stones from the Tinau river in Palpa district.