Riverbed mining halted pending investigation

Jan 24, 2018-The Natural Resource Management Committee of Gorkha has decided to suspend the extraction and supply of pebbles, stones and sand from local rivers following mounting complaints against illegal mining. Unlawful river mining has been a major problem on the banks of the Kali Gandaki and Marshyangdi rivers.

A meeting of the committee in which Chief District Officer Jitendra Basnet participated decided to allow extraction and transportation of riverbed resources only after an investigation following reports that unchecked mining was going on even in places where contracts had been issued.

Basnet said that extraction, whether licensed or not, had been temporarily suspended on the banks of the Daraudi, Chepe, Marshyangdi, Trishuli and Budhi Gandaki rivers. Meanwhile, a nine-member team has been formed in coordination with the Road Office to conduct investigation. The committee will submit a report by Friday.

“After the report is submitted, we will observe the conditions and implement strong rules accordingly. Subse-quently, we will allow extraction and shipping of resources,” Basnet said.

Basnet spoke sternly at the meeting following widespread public complaints that smugglers had been working in collusion with the police to extract riverbed resources.

“Anybody who has obtained a permit in cooperation with various agencies, how can you extract resources like smugglers? You have been breaking the law by extracting resources cheaply and selling them at exorbitant prices. I am clearly saying this manner resembles that of a smuggler. I won’t hesitate to stop you from engaging in such illegal activities.”

Basnet told the meeting that smugglers had been catering to development projects and earthquake victims. “There is no margin in buying a contract for Rs400,000 and selling it for Rs500,000.”

Permits have been issued to extract and transport riverbed materials from 17 places in this fiscal year. The District Coordination Committee (DCC) fines smugglers caught by police a mere Rs1,000.

Superintendent of Police Bhesh Raj Rijal said that the fine should be increased to Rs50,000 as a deterrence to smuggling. He said, “Even when the police apprehend smugglers, they pay a small fine and are released.”

Ashok Gurung, head of the DCC, said that a law would be framed to allow systematic management and sale of riverbed materials by increasing the penalty for smuggling. The DCC has been preparing to hike the fine to Rs50,000 as illegal activity has not stopped because smugglers were being set free after paying Rs1,000.

Various development projects have been making slow progress with construction contractors blaming scarcity of materials. The management committee has stressed the need to sell riverbed materials within the district as earthquake reconstruction is ongoing. Baburam Shrestha, chairman of the Construction Entrepreneurs Association, said that entrepreneurs were under pressure as prices of building materials had been fluctuating. Crusher industries in other districts are using materials extracted from the banks of the Budhi Gandaki at Benighat and the Marshyangdi.

Source : The kathmandu post