Limestone extraction drying up water sources in LumbiniResidue substances from the excavation sites are carried downhill during the monsoon, blocking natural springs and damaging water supply lines.
Most hill districts of Lumbini Province are gradually losing natural springs due to the haphazard extraction of limestone.
While the local residents have been hugely affected by the drying up of natural water sources in the catchment area, the authorities remain indifferent to the environmental impacts caused by limestone exploitation in Palpa, Arghakhanchi, Rolpa and Pyuthan districts.
Residue substances from the excavation sites are carried downhill during the rainy season, blocking, burying and destroying natural springs and damaging drinking water supply lines snaking through the hillsides.
The haphazard mining has directly affected the settlements below the limestone mines, exposing them to the risk of landslides and floods during the rainy season.
Kim Bahadur Ale Magar, a resident of Mathekharka settlement in Nisdi Rural Municipality-7, Palpa, says 34 households in his settlement are at risk of being buried by landslides.
“The haphazard mining of limestones in the area has put us all at risk of landslides and floods during the rainy season,” said Magar. “There is no respite for us during the dry season too as residue substances from the mining site have damaged our water supply lines.”
Hongshi Shivam Cement has been extracting limestone from a quarry at Jyamire, which is just above Mathekharka settlement.
“Water supplied by the drinking water project gets murky if it rains in the area. We have been facing drinking water problems ever since the limestone mine came into operation a few years ago,” said Magar.
Limestone is being extracted in 10 different places of Palpa by Satyawati Cement, BS Cement, Hongshi Shivam Cement, Palpa Cement, Siddhartha Minerals, Kanchan Quarries, Sarbottam Cement and Alpha Cement.
Residents of Shreedanda in Tinau Rural Municipality-3 have also been living with the repercussions of haphazard mining in the area. The limestone mine above the settlement has caused damages to the drinking water project and irrigation canal.
“The residue from mining over the years has damaged the drinking water project. The water we get is undrinkable. The concerned authorities and stakeholders remain indifferent to the problem,” said Bishnumaya Somai of Shreedanda.
According to the local people, drinking water sources have dried up at Adhamara while the reservoir, pipeline and intake in Jyamire have been damaged by the mine residue substances.
In Siddheshwar of Rainadevi Chhahara-1, a drinking water project has been left incomplete mainly due to the limestone mining by Sarbottam Cement.
The construction work of Marshyangdi-Chisapani Drinking Water Project was initiated in the fiscal year 2015-16 at the cost of Rs 49.8 million. The project aimed to supply drinking water to 462 households in the area.
“But the drinking water project has been left in limbo as an intake tank had to be shifted to another place and the alignment of the pipeline had to be changed due to the limestone mine,” said Gyan Bahadur BK, the chairman of the drinking water project.
Sarbottam Cement has been excavating limestone from just above the water source of the drinking water project for the past four years.
“The drinking water project has been affected due to the mining. The limestone mining has left the pipeline at risk, forcing us to change the pipeline alignment,” said Romakanta Neupane, a technician at the Water Supply and Sanitation Division Office in Palpa.
The Marshyangdi-Chisapani Drinking Water Project was supposed to be completed within two years of its initiation. But the project is still incomplete even after six years of its commencement due to the limestone mine. The residents of Tallo Asarre, Mathillo Asare, Bhutukdi and Manabha, among other settlements in Siddeshwar, have been facing water shortage problems owing to the delay in completing the drinking water project.
Similarly, water sources in Rolpa district are drying up due to the unchecked limestone mining at Goderiche in Runtigadhi Rural Municipality-6.
“Water sources are gradually drying up in the area due to the rampant extraction of limestone near water sources and haphazard construction of roads. If the mining goes unchecked, people in the area will be facing a water crisis soon,” said Janak Pun of Holeri.
According to Pun, several water springs were buried while constructing the access road to the limestone mine in Goderiche. Drinking water projects, irrigation projects and other infrastructures have also sustained damages due to the floods that bring limestone residues while several human settlements below the mine are at risk of floods and landslides.
The local people have started protesting against the haphazard extraction of limestone, stating that the mines are drying up water sources, destroying forests and polluting the environment.
The residents of Budhagaun in Tribeni Rural Municipality-4 started protesting after Rolpa Limestone Pvt Ltd got permission to extract stones in the area. They claim that the operation of the limestone mine will leave the settlements at risk of floods and landslides and degrade the environment.
Similarly, the local people of Holeri formed a struggle committee to ‘save’ Murulelek from being spoiled by limestone extraction.
The Federal Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies issued a license to operate mines on the recommendation of the local unit. The local people complained that the local unit did not hold discussions with them before making the recommendation.
“We got to know about the operation of the mine only after the businesspersons came to the area with the license issued by the federal government. The local unit did not hold talks with the local people about the mine operation. It seems that the local unit does not take the sentiments of the local people into consideration,” said Keshav Chand of Murele in Rolpa.
The residents of Arghakhanchi are also living with similar problems caused by limestone operation. Several water springs have dried up in the area after a limestone mine came into operation in Narpani hill a few years ago.
“The water springs dried up two years after Arghakhanchi Cement started extracting limestones from the area. We took to the street demanding that the mine be closed,” said Padam KC of Narpani.
After a series of protests from the local residents, authorities finally closed the mine at Narpani.
“It’s been 10 years since the mine’s closure and water levels in the springs are slowly increasing now,” said KC.
(Kashiram Dangi in Rolpa and Birendra KC in Arghakhanchi contributed reporting.)