Government mulls lifting ban on extraction of aggregates from Chure

Kathmandu, February 10

The government is planning to lift the ban on the extraction of aggregates from Chure that comprises around 13 per cent of the total territory of the country.

A proposal regarding the lifting of the ban has already been sent to the Cabinet after discussion among Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, Ministry of Industry and Ministry of Population and Environment.

According to the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, they had received the proposal a month ago, and discussion on it is under way. The ministries of industry, population and environment, and forest and soil conservation are reportedly willing to pass the proposal. Environmentalists and stakeholders have condemned the move.

A source at the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation said Minister Shankar Prasad Bhandary had played a major role in sending the proposal to the Cabinet.

The source, requesting anonymity, said, "It isn't important who or where the proposal came from. However, it can be ultimately linked with the interests of forest minister and industrialists. Many industrialists have paid a lot of bribe to the minister to lift the ban." The source added that not only did the proposal ask for the ban to be lifted, but also to allow export of the extracted materials to India.

However, the ministry's spokesperson said he was completely unaware of the allegation. "I have never heard of any industrialists cavorting with the ministry to lift the ban," he said.

The government had declared Chure as a conservation zone, prohibiting all activities amounting to deforestation, wildlife loss, and excavation of minerals, sand, and boulders in June 2014. The President Chure Conservation Programme Coordination Unit was established to coordinate with the President Chure Conservation Programme, which is being implemented by the departments of forest, soil and watershed conservation in 26 districts.

The Churia range (also called Siwaliks) rises steeply from the Tarai plains along the whole of its northern border. It is extended as a contiguous landscape from east to west in 33 districts. This is the first and lowest ridges of the Himalayan mountain system. These are a series of low hogback ridges in a sinuous pattern that cross the length of Nepal.

The Churia hills are young and composed of unconsolidated loose materials originated from soft rocks such as mudstone, sandstone, silt stone, and shale. Soils are mostly formed on sedimentary rocks with shallow and coarse textured soils. Steep slopes and weak consolidation of different layers are prone to severe surface erosion. Rock outcrops and gullies are common. Because of intense rainfall during monsoon, steep slopes and high erosion, vulnerability of soils, gullies and degraded lands are quite common in areas that are devoid of vegetative cover.