India builds embankment to push Mahakali River toward Nepal

Published On: December 7, 2022 09:15 AM NPT By: DIL BAHADUR CHHATYAL & PREM CHUNARA

DHANGADI, DARCHULA, Dec 7: Besides encroaching upon considerable areas in the Nepali territories of Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh, the Indian side has been accused of causing trouble to the people not only in the encroached land but also to those living in the border areas of Darchula district. 

The residents of Darchula district have complained of numerous problems due to the ‘illegal’ activities of the Indian government authorities in the border areas. According to the local residents, the Indian side has been carrying out activities that have even claimed the lives of Nepali citizens, and has built structures on the border areas affecting Nepal. 

For example, the Indian side is now constructing structures so as to divert the course of the Mahakali River toward Nepal. 

As the Indian side built structures to divert the flow of the Mahakali River toward Nepal, the locals of Nepal protested on Sunday and both sides ended up throwing stones at each other.

Four children were injured by the stones thrown from the Indian side that is building an embankment to divert the flow of the river toward Nepal. The Indian side is building permanent structures against international practices, exposing the land in Nepal to the risk of flooding. The construction is going on unabated despite protests from the locals.

Construction work against int’l practices

Despite the international laws that allow building structures in coordination with the concerned parties without affecting the other country in the border areas, India has been building embankments along the river bank unilaterally. India has expedited the construction works in recent days. India has set up a Gabion wall in the embankment just 7 to 10 meters away from Nepal.

The locals are furious because the Indian side tried to divert the course of the river by building the embankment to the north of the bridge connecting the two countries.

Indian construction company, Arun Construction, has been building the structure since last year, with the SSB, a paramilitary border security force of India, providing security to the work. The concrete embankment is one kilometer in length and eight meters in width. The locals even protested in March 2022 when the Indian side operated an excavator in the Mahakali River.

Officials of Nepal and India even held discussions at the District Administration Office, Darchula, on Monday regarding the disputed activities in the border areas. 

Chief District Officer (CDO) of Darchula, Dirgha Raj Upadhyaya, confirmed that officials of both the countries held a meeting on Monday. He said that the Nepali officials requested their Indian counterparts to carry out the construction of the embankment without affecting either of the two sides. He said that the Indian side has been requested to remove the Gabion wall built toward the Nepal side immediately. According to CDO Upadhyaya, there has been a verbal agreement between the two sides to build an embankment without affecting any of the two countries.

Khalanga Bazaar at greater risk

The locals are concerned that the construction of the embankment that has diverted the flow of the Mahakali River toward Nepal has increased the risk of flooding in the nearby settlements, including Khalanga, the district headquarters of Darchula.

“The massive flood in Mahakali River in 2014 had submerged Khalanga Bazaar. The construction of the embankment in a way to divert the course of the Mahakali River has posed a threat that it might wash away the district headquarters if there is a big flood,” the locals said. The locals complained that the government acted as a mute spectator even when they continuously suffered at the hands of the Indian side. They demanded a halt to the construction of the embankment.

Nepalis facing hassles at Pulghat border point

After the citizens of Nepal and India threw stones at each other, the Indian side started troubling Nepali residents living in the border areas. India’s SSB stationed at the Pulghat border point that connects Nepal to India has been prohibiting Nepalis from entering India on the pretext that they do not carry identity cards. The locals said that they are even made to stand in a queue for several hours to get their work done.

Nepalis are sent back home if they do not show their citizenship or national identity cards. They were not required to show identity cards before. This has troubled Nepalis who often need to go to the other side of the border.

“Indian armed police force collects the details of three generations according to the citizenship and doesn’t allow people without identity cards to enter,” a local said, adding, “The Indian armed police force has started misbehaving with us after we protested against the construction of the embankment.”

People who reach the border area after walking for several hours have to return empty-handed when they do not have their citizenship or identity cards. People of Darchula go across the border to Dharchula for employment, daily labor, and to purchase groceries. Locals said that the Indian SSB stops them saying that it is the order from their seniors.

Relatives of the deceased do not get justice

Jay Singh Dhami, 33, fell into the Mahakali River when the Indian SSB untied a Tuin crossing on July 30, 2021. His body was never found. The family of the deceased neither found the dead body nor did they get any justice. The Indian side did not arrest the accused personnel or apologize. The Dhami family has not been able to get justice till today.

On October 28, a 9-year-old child Pawan Mahara of Dumling, Byas Rural Municipality-2, was killed in an explosion during the widening of Tawaghat-Lipulekh road across the Mahakali River. The Indian side has not apologized even for this incident.

Diplomatic note sent to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi

Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a diplomatic note to India on Tuesday regarding the encroachment of the Mahakali River and the atrocities committed on Nepali citizens in Darchula by the Indian authorities. The diplomatic note was sent to the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi through the Indian Embassy in Lainchaur on Tuesday.

It has been learnt that Nepal has asked India to pay attention to three things while conducting activities in the border area.

Nepal has urged India to stop the unilateral construction of embankments along the border areas.

In the same way, the diplomatic note has also urged India to consult with Nepal before beginning such constructions in the border areas.

In the third point, Nepal has also raised the point that the Indian side should be alert to prevent such incidents from disturbing the peace and harmony across the border.

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