Illegal sand mining hits agro productivity

Jhapa, January 21

Thousands of bighas of arable land in the north of Jhapa have transformed into arid land due to haphazard mining of sand from the local Biringkhola River.

According to locals, around two thousand bighas of farmland in Budhabare and Khudunabari have become barren due to the unscientific extraction of river products from Biringkhola. "The contracting company has given the right to mine the river using heavy equipment, depressing the river bed greatly, which has dried up conventionally-built water channels," said Tulasa Thapa of Bhudhabare-2.

The Jhapa District Development Committee had awarded the mining contract for 32.5 million rupees this fiscal to Samsuhang Builders, a construction company owned by Jagat Bahadur Rai of Gauradaha-1. However, the company has been breaching the set limit, creating a crisis in the adjoining areas.

Another local Netra Neupane of Budhabare-2 said he was worried about the drying drinking water sources, a result of the haphazard mining. "The mining has resulted to the drying of local drinking water sources such as tube wells and wells in our village and other surrounding villages," said Neupane. "The project has directly affected around 15,000 people in the vicinity, and the government authorities are oblivious about this," he added.

Budhabare VDC Secretary Basudev Bhattarai confirmed the impact of the haphazard mining on paddy fields.

"There are around twenty traditionally-built irrigation channels that have now gone dry, affecting productivity of the fields fed by the channels," he said, adding that around 4000 households and around 2,000 hectares of agriculture land of Bhudhabare VDC Nos 1 to 5, Shani Arjun municipality No 3 and 5, and Khudunabari VDC 1 and 2 have been affected.

On his part, Assistant Chief District Officer Dammaru Prasad Niraula has pledged to take action against the unscrupulous contractor. "I've heard of the locals’ concerns and I am committed to doing the needful if the contractor is found in the wrong," said Niraula.

Earlier, a dispute among the locals, the contractor, and DDC staff members in Khudunabari 1 and 2 had prompted Chairperson of the District Monitoring and Coordination Committee and Chief District Officer Uttar Kumar Khatri to form a technical committee. Pangre, Hatti Killa, Giddhe, Hokse, Laxmi Biring, Subba, Jorpaini, Nepaltar Paini, Nirolni Paini are some of the irrigation channels that have gone dry due to the mining project.