How long the exploitation of Sunkoshi will continue?

SINDHUPALCHOWK, The illegal extraction of sand and gravel has been going on unchecked on the banks of Sunkoshi River, one of the tributaries of Koshi River, resulting in over exploitation of the riverbed. Miners have been extracting sand, pebbles and gravels without taking regard for the environmental impact. Long queues of tippers waiting to transport the construction materials can be seen on the banks of Sunkoshi river that flows along Arniko Highway.
Photos by Amish Regmi

Many big depressions can be noticed on the river course due to extraction of sand and pebbles. Such extreme steps have caused the river to change its course. According to government provision, it is obligatory to assess the environmental impact while extracting pebbles, gravel and sand. However, no one seems to be abiding by the legal provision.

A massive landslide on August 2, 2014, blocked the Sunkoshi river near Jure of the district. Though the government directed the district administration and then the district coordination committee to stop the exploitation of the river following the incident, the situation has not changed. Tourism entrepreneurs say the unchecked extraction and the formation of huge pits in the river has been affecting rafting.

Environment Expert Dr. Prem Poudel said the exploitation of rivers in the name of extracting sand, and pebbles will have serious environmental impact.  “Mining is completely illegal, but there are certain criteria on the amount of extraction and the place,” said Poudel, “Here the extraction of river materials has been going on uncontrolled, and the local and center has not been able to regulate though there are local and center monitoring committees.”

He added such exploitation of river poses a threat of floods and soil erosion in the downstream. “The stones act as a barrier to reduce speed of the river and that will prevent flooding,” he said.

Poudel further said the proper extraction of sand and pebbles from the river are beneficial. “Excessive piling of stones and sand in the river cause the river to change its course,” he added.
Information officer at the Ministry of Forest and Environment, Bimal Acharya, said the uncontrolled excavation of sand and pebbles invites problems of debris in the river. “It is legal to extract as per the criteria. There should be criteria for extraction,” he noted.

Currently, the district coordination committee has been overseeing the excavation contract of river materials. Earlier, the district coordination committee had been looking after the contract.

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