SIRAHA, Oct 22: Following massive media coverage of Chure destruction, the government had imposed a ban on the extraction of aggregate from the rivers and deforestation in the Chure range back in 2014. Reports, however, indicated that mafia were still active in the illegal mining and transport of the materials.
Similarly, felling of trees did not stop. Later, after the devastating earthquake of 2015, the government lifted the ban at some areas citing the need of construction materials for reconstruction. After the local bodies came into existence and they got the authority over local resources, things got even worse.
Reports from various districts brought to the fore the struggle for the claim over local rivers and jungles of different wards and municipalities. Environmentalists did not stop warning of impending danger amid unabated destruction of the Chure. However, the efforts to protect rivers and trees were apparently ineffective. Siraha has also lost huge areas of jungles in the last few years.
Similarly, crusher plants along the riverbanks speak volumes about the illegal activities going around.
Police in Golbazar last month nabbed a truck driver for illegal transportation of sand and aggregate. The truck was actually taken under control by the locals and handed over to the police. Officials from the forest department were also called to intervene into the matter. But this kind of sporadic monitoring is not going to actually address the issue of extraction from river and cutting down of forests, according to the locals.
Post federalism, natural resources have been haphazardly used and sold off, claim the locals. And the weak monitoring system has encouraged mafia to continue with the work unabated.
“It is everyone’s duty to protect rivers and jungles. But neither the public shows concern, nor the officials are responsible,” said a local of Golbazar, Sukha Bahadur Khulal. “There is no account of how many trees have been cut in a month, how much sand and stones from the rivers have been carried off,” he added.
Khulal states that the municipality has not demarcated the area from where mines can be collected. This has allowed crusher industries collect any amount of materials as they like.
“The crusher industries have been operating illegally. There is no boundary from where can they take away sand and aggregate. But the concerned department remains silent about it,” Khulal reported.
According to Shreedhar KC, chief administrative officer of Golbazar Municipality, permission has been given to contractors to set up crusher plants in parts of Gagan River and Ghurmi River. However, he admitted the lack of clear demarcation along the rivers.
“Local resources have to be used for income generation. And we have simply followed that,” he said. “We have not yet marked the areas for the contractors though,” he added. The irresponsible approach of the authority is going to fall very hard on the environment, according to Dev Kumar Moktan, general secretary of Chure Jaladhar Samrakshan Samitee. The two major rivers are in the hands of mafia, he claimed.
“When the authority turns a blind eye to the illegal extraction, things go awful,” Moktan said. “From the environmental point of view, we are least sensitive. The local body should have understood it and revised its policies,” he added. Both Ghurmi and Gagan rivers have changed their course in the recent years. Unlike in the past, the locals are unable to predict floods here. And environmentalists attribute these kinds of disturbances to the gradually degrading environment. Also, the fast drying up water resources are due to the environmental disturbances, according to the environmentalists.
Pointing toward Ghurmi river, Shukra Bahadur Khulal Magar of Chandrodaya, Golbazar Municipality – 20 stated that his field has been swallowed by the river.
“My field stretched to that side. But the river changed its course and swept away my land,” he said.
The locals, including Magar, these days live with fear of being swept away by the river some day. Rains and floods have become unpredictable than in the past, they say.
There are around 70 households near Ghurmi river area at Chandrodaya village. Padam Bahadur Sunuwar from the village stated that even the local government is not sensitive about this issue.