Stones excavated from rivers in the Chure range transported in tractor trailers in this file photo.
LAHAN, Feb 9: National Reconstruction Authority’s (NRA) to lift ban on excavating construction materials in the Chure forest range to aid in the reconstruction of earthquake affected areas has alarmed conservationists and stakeholders. They have expressed concerns that the step would be exploited to further damage the already fragile Chure ecology.
Government had banned excavation of sand and stones in the region around two years after reports about massive exploitation of resources in the region - including deforestation and rampant excavation of construction materials - were reported. The ban had succeeded in discouraging timber, stone and sand smugglers from exploiting the region’s natural resources. The government is presently reviewing the NRA’s recommendation.
If the ban is lifted, private and government construction companies will have access to construction resources in the Chure range that touches along 36 districts. Stakeholders have accused the government of not discussing the matter with stakeholders so far. One of the major factors behind the imposing the ban was the effect of excavation on the regional ecosystem. Due to excessive exploitation of resources in Chure range, drying of water sources and landslides were becoming more frequent in Madhes.
These had triggered concerns among the environmentalists and other stakeholders which subsequently pressured the government for intervening. They are once again alarmed by NRA’s recommendations and are warning that such step would endanger the already fragile Chure ecosystem.
“This is a very sensitive matter. Chure range is already very fragile. The ban was in fact very long due. But now, if it is lifted, it is going to be a grave mistake,” said Nagendra Prasad Yadav, who has been consultant for the President Chure Tarai Madhes Conservation Board. “This is also a range where water sources are recharged. If excavation is allowed here, water sources cannot have natural recharge. That will have serious consequences,” he added.
He warned, providing access to the Chure region will allow mafias to once again exploit it and that will be too costly for the country. “Lifting the ban might benefit the country in the immediate. But it will have serious consequences in the long run. Who will be responsible for that? The consequences will be fatal for environment, wildlife, human settlements here and across the country,” he stressed.
Environmentalists have been noticing unpleasant consequences of the earlier destruction of the Chure range. Yadav stated that several rivers have changed their normal courses. Countless water sources have dried up. Most of the rivers in the region these days have little sand left impacting entire wildlife, environment and flow of water. “Entire natural course here has been disturbed. It is all the effect of the excavation along river banks and rampant deforestation,” he said.
He asserted that a lot of villages have been made prone to flooding by the earlier damages done to the Chure ecology. And many fertile fields have turned barren due to flood residues, he said. “Just in Siraha and Saptari, 37 bigas of land have been apparently covered by sand and stone. It was due to the massive flood in Khado River last time. There are many other fields which can no more produce crops.”
Madhes based leaders have said that lifting the ban would be a cruel step against Madhes. Renu Kumari Yadav, vice president of the Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum Nepal, accused the government was trying to turn Madhes into a desert. “It is a conspiracy to change Madhes into a desert. If the ban is lifted, Madhes would be badly hit. We strongly protest any atempt by the government to lift the ban,” she said.
Manish Suman, general secretary of the Sadbhawana Party added that they strongly oppose the recommendation and would take to streets if the government lifts the ban. He called on the government to drop the idea. “If the government is little bit sensitive about environmental issue and Madhes, it must think and act rightly and give up the thought of lifting the ban right away,” he said. “We are never going to say yes for this. The government cannot go against the will of the stakeholders.”
Suresh Kumar Mandal, central member of the Tarai Madhes Loktantrik party suggested that the government should explore other options to fulfill reconstruction needs. He warned that the people of Madhes will take to streets if it moves ahead putting aside their concerns. “We will never support such a decision that is aimed at finishing Madhes. We won’t let the government invite mafias to exploit the Chure range.”