Haphazard extraction of riverbed materials poses risk to settlements in BajhangVast tracts of arable land have been swept away due to unchecked riverbank erosion along the Seti river in last few years.
Several settlements in Jayprithvi Municipality, Bajhang are at risk of erosion due to illegal extraction of sand, pebbles and stones in Seti river, local residents say.
The rampant extraction of riverbed materials in Ruinabagar, Bhopur and Kaprikot villages of Jayprithvi Municipality-11 has threatened the fragile ecosystem of the region.
On Friday, the residents of Ward No. 11 drew the attention of the municipal office and other district-based government authorities demanding a halt in the haphazard extraction of riverbed materials.
“Dozers are haphazardly used to extract stones, pebbles and sand from the river bank. The river has already eroded hectares of paddy fields and is heading towards human settlements now. It is necessary to stop extraction to save our settlements,” said Ishwar Nath Joshi, a resident of Jayprithvi Municipality.
According to him, around 50 to 60 tractors are being used to transport riverbed materials on a daily basis.
Hundreds of ropanis of arable land plots have already been swept away due to continuous riverbank erosion along the Seti and its tributaries in the last few years.
“Our entire village is at risk of erosion now. The haphazard extraction of riverbed materials must be stopped immediately,” said Dharmaraj Joshi, a resident of Jayprithvi Municipality-11.
Besides Jay Prithvi Municipality, several other local units in Bajhang are also facing the same problem as the illegal extraction of riverbed materials continues in many rivers and streams in the district.
Heavy machineries are being used in Bahuligad, Sunigad, Kalngagad, Tarugad, Jadarigad streams, Bhopur, Sailabagar, Ratapani, Tamail, Paringal, Rayal and Deural among other areas along the Seti river for the extraction of riverbed materials.
“Hundreds of tipper trucks and tractors carry riverbed materials from the riverbank areas every day. However, the concerned authorities are being mute spectators to the illegal business,” said Lokendra Giri of Paringal. “None of the government authorities has taken steps to control the haphazard extraction.”
As per the existing legal provisions, it is illegal to extract riverbed materials without conducting Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The law also forbids the extraction of sand, pebbles and stones within 500 metres of bridges and other structures.
But the illegal extraction of riverbed materials goes unchecked near bridges and dams of irrigation canals in various rivers and rivulets of Bajhang district, local residents say.
According to technicians, a motorable bridge over the Bahuligadh stream that links Chainpur, the district headquarters of Bajhang, to the rest of the district is at risk due to the rampant extraction of riverbed materials near the structure. The concrete embankments constructed along the river two years ago are also on the verge of collapse.
The illegal mining goes unchecked every year in the Seti, Bahuligadh, Kalangagadh and Tarugadh, among other rivers, in Bajhang district. The local residents claim that several suspension bridges are at risk of being swept away and many irrigation projects are on the brink of closure due to the rampant extraction.
According to Karan Kami, a farmer of Rithapata, consumers of a local irrigation canal have to shift the dam frequently, as the water level in the stream decreases every year owing to the haphazard extraction of riverbed materials.
“We have to shift the dam a few metres upstream almost every year. The irrigation canal will be closed within a few years if the illegal mining is not controlled immediately,” said Kami.
Conservationists have also expressed concerns over the impending crisis owing to the rampant mining in the district. They urge the local governments to take action against the illegal extraction of riverbed materials that leaves human settlements and various infrastructures at high risk.
“It will cause a lot of destruction if the haphazard mining is not controlled at the earliest,” said Mangal Khadka, district secretary of the Federation of Community Forest Users Nepal.
Meanwhile, Juna Jagri, deputy mayor of Jayaprithvi Municipality, says the issue will be discussed in the upcoming municipal executive meeting.
“We have received reports about various incidents of haphazard extraction. We will take a decision in the municipal executive meeting,” he said.