Municipality faces court case over 'exploitation' of local resources

Published On: April 21, 2018 08:05 AM NPT By: Devendra Basnet

DANG, April 21: Babai Rural Municipality office recently extracted mines from over six rivers in the region. The existing laws allow local bodies to use local resources for development, but there certainly are some guidelines. Without taking the environmental impacts into consideration, natural resources cannot be extracted haphazardly. Stating that the office did not follow the guidelines, some locals filed case against it in the court.

The court is yet to give verdict on this. However, the municipality chairperson Bhuwaneshwor Poudel defended that the case was filed by some 'disgruntled' groups. 
“We had done nothing wrong. We had extracted pebbles, sand and stones for developmental works. Without such resources how can development be possible? But some disgruntled people have filed case against it,” he said. 

According to Poudel, they are the people who wanted to have their monopoly over the resources. After they failed to get things done their way, they tried to defame the municipality office and the elected representatives, he stated. 

The plaintiffs have claimed that the office went on extracting mines from rivers without doing any environmental assessment. The case was filed at the high court of Tulasipur. With this, all the work has come to a halt. 

When asked why the excavators were used without Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Poudel said that the testing was being done. 

“Wherever we were using excavator, such tests were being done. It was under process,” he said. “Actually, we have made a rule that we would not allow the resources of our rivers to be supplied elsewhere. But they wanted to take those away. So, there was a conflict of interest,” he added. 

Shantinagar Rural Municipality also wanted to extract mines from the rivers. However, it was found that the rights were already given to some contractors. 

Now, the municipality office claims that it should have the sole domain over the resources. But the district coordination committee has given the contract of Bahulaha and Babai rivers to contractors. Locals complain that the extraction of mines here is also taking place haphazard. However, it has not come to a halt. 

“The entire river zone has been badly affected. Now, it seems like there isn't any sand or stones left,” said Kaman Singh Dangi, chairperson of the municipality. “They use excavators round the clock. Ask the locals, it's a very serious issue,” he added. 

Even though the locals do trust their elected representatives regarding the conservation of environment, Dangi fumed that the district coordination committee 'destroyed' the rivers. “They have the monopoly and have not even carried out EIA,” he said. 

Since the two rivers are being excavated to a great extent, this has posed serious threat of floods in the villages. Ward number two, three, five and six of the rural municipality are under risk of floods. “People are scared. Too much of stones and sand have been taken away from the rivers,” Dangi reported. 

Even though the matter was taken to the concerned authorities, nothing has been done in this regard, Dangi complained. He said they had approached the district coordination committee as well as the district administration office and police regarding this issue. 

Excessive extraction of natural resources is a growing problem in this area. While the drying of water resources is already a big problem here, haphazard extraction of the mines is expected to worsen things further. 

According to Dangi, there is acute water shortage in almost all wards of the municipality. “We need to be very serious about environmental conservation, but we have not been able to bring things in track,” he lamented. 

Claim over jungles, rivers, mountains by local bodies and handing over the work to their desired contractors are emerging as a new challenge in the local levels. The unhealthy competition is quite apparent. According to Dangi, there should be clear legal provisions regarding the use of local resources. “There are some guidelines regarding this. But it has to be clearer. The one who is given rights over the resources should be made equally accountable. That way alone we can properly monitor things and hold the concerned body responsible,” Dangi suggested. 

Dozens of river resources in the districts are being freely extracted since long. In the lack of strong intervention by the government, such activities are going on unabated. This is sure to bring environmental hazards in the days to come.

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