Tractor-trailers filled with aggregates on riverbanks in Mohanyal Rural Municipality, Kailali in this recent picture. Photo: Yogesh Rawal/Republica
TIKAPUR, Oct 10: Collection of aggregates from river and deforestation has not ended even after the government banned it in the Chure region. Locals have been constantly reporting and protest against such activities in the region. Against the government’s directives and local’s protest, local governments are fueling such activities by providing permission.
Mohanyal Rural Municipality recently awarded tender to private company for collecting aggregates from riverbanks. While locals are expressing concerns over massive collection of timber, stones and sand from the Chure region, the local body has defend its decision.
“Chure is our asset and has to be protected. Mafias have already done enough harm to it,” said Sharad Neupane, a local of Tikapur. “Forests are shrinking and rivers are gradually losing their sand and stones,” he added.
Chure destruction has already affected the environment. Drying of water resources, landslides and even extreme weather conditions are attributed to the loss of jungles. In the plains, floods have become more unpredictable. Reports warn that unabated intervention in Chure could lead to even grave situation.
“They come in massive numbers, dig aggregates and take away massive amount of soil and aggregates from the river banks. Even though locals protested, they did not heed,” Neupane said. “However, now as the local body has given permission to do so, nobody can stop them,” he alleged.
Local bodies have rights over local resources. They can call for bid and invite tenders for using its resources. Mohanyal Rural Municipality also exercised this right and it cannot be held wrong for doing so, said Nawal Singh Rawal, chairperson of the rural municipality.
“We have not done anything wrong. We have awarded tender to the same old contractors who were working here earlier,” said Rawal. “We have followed all legal process while doing so,” he added.
Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is mandatory before implementing any projects that can harm the environment. Claiming that EIA of the rivers were done long ago, he urged locals ‘not to make the issue big’.
Ganesh Ojha, executive officer at the rural municipality also refuted the charge that the rural municipality has not carried out the EIA. He stated that contractors were working under the rural municipality’s supervision. “I go to the field regularly. I am monitoring things,” he said.
Locals however allege that the contractors have been carrying sand, stones and even timbers from unauthorized areas and claim that the rural municipality has not been monitoring.
“Excavators operate on the site day and night. They have been collecting and transporting aggregates day and night. Only a fool would believe that they are only mining within the area they are authorized to,” noted Neupane. “They are not working as per the law. They are earning by illegally exploiting our resources and the rural municipality has kept quiet,” he added.
The rural municipality has given permission to contractors to collect stones from the rural municipality’s wards 3, 5 and 7. These areas fall in the chure region and are considered rich in river resources.
The rural municipality shares border with Lamkichuha Municipality. However, Lamkichuha Municipality is not happy with the rural municipality’s decision. “Resources from river banks are being taken away haphazardly by the contractors. The rural municipality is not monitoring and disciplining its contractors,” Mahadev Bajagain, mayor of the municipality said. “Let me tell you, even representatives of the rural municipality are involved in all this wrong doing,” he accused.
Bajagain has also alleged that the rural municipality has not limited the collection of aggravates just to its area. The contractors are also exploiting riverbanks, which fall in Lamkichuha Municipality.
“I have complained of the entire issue to the forest division office. I have requested them over ten times. They had assured that they would take action against the wrong doers, but so far, nothing has been done,” Bajagain said. “It is an open secret that Chure is being massively destroyed and this is being done in mutual understanding of forest department officials and mafias,” he added.
Meanwhile, Amar Bulan, chief of division forest office of Kailali complained of lack of support from the local bodies in controlling deforestation. Since some local bodies do not cooperate, it has become difficult to stop destruction of the Chure range, he said.
“It is difficult to curb crimes when locals are not helpful. Locals and local bodies have not supported us well in this issue,” he said. “They are collecting sand and stones as they please,” he added.
Bulan stated that local bodies have not even availed him details of contractors and areas where they have been allowed to work. “There is row over this; our office has conflict with the local bodies. And they don’t provide us even the details,” he said.
He admitted that his office has been facing difficulty in dealing with the mafias. Lack of resources and staffs make the forest division office weaker than mafias, he said. “We have only five-six officials but they mafias are huge in number. As such they have huge resources and power at their disposal to carry out their illegal activities. But we are trying our best and urge locals and local bodies for cooperation in protecting our resources,” he added.
“The provincial government has not been able to do its duty. There are things it should clearly address. Chure is asset of the nation, but the responsibility of particular area falls on particular provincial government,” mayor Bajgain remarked.