Mahakali embankment at risk due to haphazard excavation of riverbed materialsLarge scale business entrepreneurs, locals and even government offices excavate riverbed materials from the riverbank for the construction of buildings and other infrastructures.
Although the Mahakali River Control Project has imposed a ban on the excavation of riverbed materials from Mahakali river and its banks, sand, stone and other river products are being extracted in a haphazard manner in Khalanga, the district headquarters of Darchula.
Because of the mining, the newly made permanent embankment in Khalanga is at risk of erosion and flooding. Rana Bahadur Bam, chief at the project, said that there’s a risk of internal erosion due to the haphazard excavation of sand and pebbles from the foundation area of the embankment. “We had issued a public notice not to extract riverbed materials from the embankment area, but the locals and outsiders who are involved in the extraction have not paid attention to our request.”
Large scale business entrepreneurs, locals and even government offices excavate riverbed materials from the riverbank for the construction of buildings and other infrastructures.
Most of the locals in Khalanga depend on daily wage work to make a living, like extracting riverbed materials from the river. But the rate at which the extraction is taking place is detrimental to the health of the river, said Bam.
Mata Lohar, a local woman of Mahakali Municipality Ward No. 5, said she has been extracting sand from the riverbank for the last 12 years. “If we don’t extract sand from the river, we will go hungry. There are hundreds of people working as labourers to extract riverbed materials from the river,” said Lohar. Most of them, who reach Khalanga in search of jobs (mainly daily wage employment), find their way to the river and engage in extracting sand and pebbles.
Mahakali Municipality had conducted Initial Environmental Examination or Environmental Impact Assessment at the beginning of this fiscal year. The assessment was done to kickoff collection of river products from Mahakali, Lasku, Nijangadh, Dhauligad, Kimtadi Hola, Thaligad and Kakada stream.
Nara Singh Badal, the officiating chief administrator at the municipality, said, “We have prepared a working guideline to excavate riverbed materials after receiving several complaints. But the municipal office is yet to implement it,” he said. “A working guideline controls haphazard excavation and works as a guide that gives scientific methods to the extraction process.”
Six years ago, the Mahakali floods had swept away 56 homes and killed at least 12 people. The construction of the permanent embankment was initiated in the wake of the devastating Mahakali flood. Officials of the project claimed that they have already constructed 8km of the embankment along the river bank. In Khalanga, the construction of 4,250 metres of permanent embankment has been completed so far. According to project officials, they are yet to complete construction of some 280 metres more. Bam said, “Some of these areas also fall under the Nepal-India border and are at high risk because of haphazard excavation of riverbed materials. We have repeatedly requested the local administration and local units to pay attention to the illegal extraction, but to no avail.”