Lured by money, sand-miners give Dashain a big miss

LALITPUR: Sand-mining from the already depleted rivers of the Kathmandu Valley has not only become a money-spinner for businessmen here but also a lucrative profession for many who come to Kathmandu in their striving for improved life conditions.

The government is a mute spectator of the illegal sand-mining activities which many fear could possibly result in a disastrous consequence for the Kathmandu Valley.

What is even more astounding is the fact that many employees postponed this Dashain festival and continued to extract sands, as contractors offered them handsome money.

From dawn to dusk, forgetting Dashain, Kanchi Tamang, 35, dug out sands and carried it all the way from Hanumante River to a construction site.

She now earns Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 a day. On all other ordinary days - non-festive occasions - Tamang received merely Rs 200 a day. Tamang, who originally hails from Dolakha, came to Kathmandu five years ago following the death of her husband, the only breadwinner in the family.

Like Tamang, sweltering under the scorching sun, scores of poor men and women who came to Kathmandu in search of good life remained busied throughout the week this Dashain, digging out sand, shoveling it and carrying it to the housing sites.

“This is quite unusual for us in Dashain, when our friends and relatives are decorating their houses, wearing attractive clothes and decorating them with precious ornaments and celebrating Dashain with big fanfare,” said Tamang. “But I am compelled to work as the contractor pays me twice as high in Dashain.”

Every year, the monsoon brings sands to the Hanumante and Mahonara rivers. As soon as the rainy season retreats, sand-mining resumes on a war-footing when contractors compete to extract as much sand as possible for housing and other businesses. Some workers said that the demand for sand in the Kathmandu Valley construction sites has outrun the supplies. Roshan Lama, a sand miner, who carries sand to a construction area, said he could not go home this Dashain due to his work.

“If I had gone home to celebrate Dashain, someone else would have carried away the sand,” he said.

“I have told my family members to wait for a little while to celebrate this Dashain,” he added. “Some of our colleagues earned Rs 8,000 a day,” he added. “They carried 20 bags of sands in a day from the river to the construction sites.”