MAHOTTARI, Jan 13: Local bodies in Mahottari district have been collecting taxes amounting to millions of rupees every year by permitting extraction of stones and other resources from various rivers in the district. In the name of generating internal revenue, rampant extraction of resources is taking place without making due consideration for sustainability, its harm on nature and long-term implications.
Rampant extractions of river resources are mostly taking place in Bardiwas Municipality, Sitapur Bharangaha Municipality, and Gaushala Municipality among other local bodies of the district. Heavy excavators, loaders, and tipper are used in the process. Repeated movements of heavy vehicles carrying such resources overcapacity have resulted in the weakening of bridges along highways and connecting roads of the district.
As extraction and transportation of such resources are taking place unchecked, many of the weakened bridges are at risk of sudden collapse. Lack of maintenance of weakened bridges has made local fear that accidents are waiting to happen. None of the local bodies has done necessary planning and preparations in case of such accidents.
Likewise, constant movements of heavy vehicles have resulted in poor conditions of roads and highways in the district. Hardly any road is in good condition. Passengers are facing plights and forced to bear consequences. Furthermore, if the situation continues, there is a big risk that the government’s billions of rupees investment on roads and bridges will go to complete waste.
The district has multiple rivers including Ratu, Maraha, Ankushi, Vabsi, Gadanta, Dolan and Bake, mostly flowing through Bardibas, Gaushala and Sitapur Bhangaha. Heavy excavators are operated round the clock each day on many of these rivers.
These activities have also affected the quality of life in rural settlements nearby the rivers. With uncontrolled extraction of river resources, the conditions of forest areas and arable lands too are deteriorating fast.
Locals have claimed that such activities are going unabated due to collusion of crusher industries with local police and officials of local units. “Crusher industries are not slowing down despite the negative effects of their work. Instead, river extractions are continuing in full swing here,” said Ramjanat Mahato, a local of Bardibas-11.
Locals have demanded their local government to build embankments on both sides of Ratu River before giving a permit to extract minerals from the river. Yet, their demands have fallen into deaf ears.
The newly elected Mayor of Bardibas, Bidur Karki before his election, had promised to put an end to rampant extractions of river resources. At present, however, the same person has been giving permissions for such activities. Locals have criticized the mayor’s role and backtracking on his promise.
Locals have accused Mayor Karki, who was elected on their votes due to his big promises to solve residents’ problems, of making Ratu River a big source of income without considering long term implications from the decision. Likewise, locals of Sitapur Bhangaha and Gaushala are also backlashing their elected representatives for the same reason.
During the extractions of resources from a river, it is illegal for contractors to use heavy equipment, drill just below bridges and extract resources from forest areas. However, none of these rules are being followed currently. Majority of extraction companies in Mahottari have been ignoring these rules.
At least half a dozen bridges along East-west Highway alone in Mahottari are at immediate risk of collapse. Experts warned that these bridges are at great risk as extraction activities at Ratu, Bhabsi, Gadanta, Mahara, Dolankhola and Banke Rivers are ongoing directly beneath these bridges.
Experts said that river extractions directly underneath the bridges have greatly weakened pillars of the bridges. Many of the mentioned bridges are getting shaky during slight movements of vehicles, increasing the possibility of collapse anytime.
The law prohibits the extraction of river resources within one kilometer from bridges. However, local bodies and local administration seem unaware about the law and they have not taken any measure to enforce it.
Bardibas’ Mayor Bidur Karki said he has considered every rule and policy while awarding contracts for extracting river minerals.
“If we find that companies are extracting resources without considering the impact on roads and bridges, the department of roads and other stakeholders will take prompt action against them,” added Mayor Karki.
He was also quick to deny that illegal extractions of resources are taking place. “The rumors are baseless as the heavy extraction of resources from our river is not happening.”
On the other hand, the department of roads has been ignoring the repair and maintenance of the dangerous bridges that could collapse anytime. The department has also not done routine maintenance of roads despite its pathetic condition. Locals accused the department of taking their safety very lightly.
Excavators and tipper being used to extract resources from Ratu River based in Pashupati Nagar of Bardibas Municipality-9, Mahottari in this recent picture.