The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority has forwarded a six-point suggestion to various agencies of the federal and provincial governments with regard to extraction, collection, processing, sale, and distribution of natural resources, including stones, pebbles, soil, and sand.

The suggestions circulated by the anti-graft body last week require the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Department of Industry and Ministry of Industry of the provinces to carry out monitoring and inspection of mining industries to ascertain if they have acquired licence or permission in line with the prevailing Industrial Enterprises Act. The responsible government agencies have been told to initiate immediate action against such industries if they are found to be operating without meeting the prescribed standards.

Similarly, the CIAA has urged the government agencies to strictly implement the prevailing Mines and Mineral Acts. As per Section 5 of the Act, it is mandatory for projects licensed to extract minerals to abide by environmental terms and conditions. In yet another suggestion, the anti-graft body requires the regulatory bodies to enforce the maximum threshold for extracting stones, pebbles and sand from rivers as per the environmental study report of the mining industry.

The CIAA alerted government agencies that they were obliged to ensure effective implementation of the 'Standard on Extraction, Sale and Management of Stones, Pebbles and Sand, 2020', which discourages excessive and indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources.

The standard also stipulates the practical procedures to be adopted by rural municipalities and municipalities in exercising the power to sell stones, pebbles, sand and soil. As per the standard, local levels shall extract and collect river and mine-based products from the areas as specified in the approved environmental study report.

If required, they may carry out extraction and collection of such construction materials by relocating settlements to safer places as per the decision of the concerned district disaster management committee to avert possible risk of disasters such as floods and earthquakes. The standard also empowers the local levels to award contract to registered companies or organisations for extraction, collection and sale of river and mine-based products.

"Contrary to the provision of the standard, some local levels had been awarding the contract in collusion with various persons and groups," the CIAA said. As per the standard, extraction and collection of river and mine-based products within an area of two kilometres from dense settlement and forest shall be prohibited. No local level shall carry out such work in river areas within 500 metres from the highway and one-km from motorable bridge and suspension bridge. Extraction and collection of construction materials shall be carried out in a way that the activity will not alter the flow of the river and affect its structure and irrigation system.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 27, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.