DANG, June 9: All three tiers of government committed to Chure conservation appear enthusiastic to exploit it. From the federal government to the lower level local government, there is a shared desire to bring about the destruction of Chure. The government, which sees Chure as a strong source of income, is hell bent to destroy it due to wrong plans. The local government seems whimsical over Chure.
This year, the federal government has planned to open export of stones and pebbles from the Chure region, which was closed for exports since June 2014. The government has not explicitly mentioned it as 'Chure', but it can be inferred that the government's objective of exporting stones and gravel from Nepal aligns with the concept of ‘exploiting’ Chure. This point, which was mentioned in the recent budget speech along with the government’s policies and programs, has not been proven yet. However, experts who interpreted it as an attempt to exploit Chure and sell the resources to India had claimed that the government was ready to sign an agreement to this effect with the southern neighbor during Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's recently concluded visit to India.
"During the Prime Minister's visit to India, there was concern that a written or verbal agreement would be reached on this matter, however, there hasn’t been any announcement or confirmation of any agreement or discussion on this issue during the visit," Chure expert Dr Vijay Singh said, adding, “If the matter mentioned in the budget is substantiated, it will lead to the destruction of the ecosystem due to illegal activities.”
However, this budget-related topic has yet to be discussed in parliament. The government, which plans to enact laws to exploit Chure, claimed that it aims to enhance the economic system. Chure experts have warned that the government is not serious about the prospect of 61 percent of citizens being displaced due to the impacts of Chure exploitation.
Province government wants to clear off the entire Chure hill
Like the federal government, the intention of the Lumbini province government is focused on destroying Chure. The provincial government had planned to excavate a 'Chure-hill' in Butwal. During the tenure of the then Chief Minister Shankar Pokhrel, it was decided to excavate and sell the Basantapur hill which is located alongside the road connecting Butwal and Palpa. At that time, the provincial government pointed to this hill as the main reason for the landslides on the Butwal-Palpa road section. The province government had decided to excavate the hill, saying that if the hill is removed, the landslide will be stopped and there will be revenue generation by selling the stones that come out of it. Former Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Chure expert Rameshwar Khanal says, “There was an attempt to excavate the entire hill in order to prevent landslides along the Palpa-Butwal road section. Additionally, the province government aimed to generate revenue by selling the stones. The Provincial Planning Commission had also approved the master plan to remove the hill in the interests of certain crusher businessmen. Interestingly, the government, which was prepared to excavate the entire hill, hadn’t explicitly mentioned the term ‘Chure’ anywhere. It was later revealed and there was a strong opposition when people realized that ‘Chure’ was being excavated.”
According to a former official of the Province Planning Commission, the contract for excavating Chure had already been awarded. “As much as I am informed, the contract to excavate the hill was also signed,” said the official, “But later, the contract was canceled. Maybe, there was a lawsuit against it, I am not sure about the reason for the cancellation.”
According to former Finance Secretary Khanal, after it became public that the provincial government had started excavating the Chure hills, there was widespread opposition. After that, the provincial government withdrew that decision.
Exploitation in the name of 'asset’
Disputes between local levels have been going on after the rights over natural resources were established. Such disputes about border crossings confirm how determined local levels are to excavate rivers and streams. Excavation in the name of environmental impact assessment is done by breaching the criteria. The rivers and streams of the Chure region are now dry due to the contracts given by the local levels for excavation. Even in the places where the contracts have not been awarded, the local bodies are demolishing Chure in the name of collecting assets.
Lamahi Municipality had earlier called for tender bids for the excavation of the Rapti River area, which falls under the Chure region. However, one specific location in Ward 7, did not receive any contract. Despite this, the municipality exploited the resources of the area for revenue generation. Subsequently, the municipality devised a plan to carry out excavation in the area where no contract had been signed.
A few days ago, the municipality began excavation in Ward 7 of the Rapti River, using bulldozers. "We signed a contract to allow the use of bulldozers, but excavation was not permitted," insists Mayor Jograj Chaudhary. "We signed the contract solely for revenue generation."
The stones and other materials excavated from the site are directly supplied to the crusher industry. "Excavation will continue for another two to four days until completion," Mayor Chaudhary stated. The excavation is expected to be completed within a few days, during which the revenue will be generated through mining activities. With limited time for excavation, the miners in charge of the deposit are utilizing bulldozers to maximize their output.
It was reported that there was opposition from the locals when they used bulldozers to excavate the river, which was resolved by providing monetary compensation to some locals.
It is not only Lamahi but also several local municipalities in Deukhuri that are engaged in illegal mining under various contracts. The exploitation of Chure's Rapti River, which serves as the primary source of income for Lamahi Municipality, Rapti Rural Municipality, Garwa Rural Municipality, and Rajpur Rural Municipality in Deukhuri, has had a significant impact.