Dry patch displaces sand-diggers

Itahari, October 22:

Dinesh Rai of Dulari, Morang, has left for India in search of employment. Bhakta Rai of the same area is bound for Saudi Arabia after taking a loan at high rate of interest from the local lender.

They were compelled to leave for abroad as shortage of sand and gravel in the local Gachhiya river has cropped up. Like Dinesh and Bhakta, over 700 persons had been supporting their families by selling sand, after digging it up from the river.

All these people have been displaced either to other districts or foreign nations in search of employment as sand has fallen short.

The families of these 700 workers were dependent on the river for their daily bread.

Mainly women and children can be seen digging in the river to collect sand these days.

“No more sand is found in the river as the river did not flood properly this year,” said Ratna Maya Rai, 46, who was collecting sand by digging a burrow in the river.

According to her, till last year a family could collect a tractorful of sand in a day, but now it takes four days to glean the same amount of sand.

Owing to the shortage of sand in the river around 2000 workers are facing difficulty, said eastern region coordinator of the GFONT Om Koirala.

Fifty per cent of the area’s youths engaged in collecting sand have been displaced, he said.

A worker Bhupal Rai said, “I am finding it tough to collect sand from the river this year.” “The industry is facing a shortage of river-based resources in the Gachhiya river this year,” said Ashok Shahi, in-charge of the Gachhiya-based Eastern Stone Mills. He said: “Half a dozen mill workers were displaced due to lack of employment after the shortage of resources.”

“Revenue collection is also affected due to lack of river-based resources,” said Man Kumar Rai, a staff at the District Development Committee.

Village Development Committee (VDC) secretary Nanda Kishor Kafle said, “The tender for Sundarpur VDC was called in at Rs 415,000 this year. Last year it was called in at Rs 700,000 which is nearly double of this year amount.”