Illegal mining of stones is going on unchecked from a community forest near Lalpur of Rapti Sonari rural municipality-7 in Banke district. This activity which has been going on since long at the Chure hill falling under the Mandapawa community forest has resulted in the depletion of the environment in the area.
The stones are being taken for the construction of embankment along the Rapti river. The locals have alleged that the contractor is involved in the illegal mining in collusion with the forest users committee, the local people's representatives and local administration. It is said bringing stones from other places would be cost much and hence the contractor is taking stones from the community forest.
Locals say that the contractor transports about 30 tractor trolley- full of stones on a daily basis from the Chure hill side. One tractor trolley has the capacity of carrying about four cubic metres load.
The contractor is said to pay maximum Rs1,500 per cubic metre to the tractor owner for transporting the stones. If the contractor were to transport stones from Muguwa khola stream, it would cost him minimum Rs 4,000 per cubic metre. The contractor has been issued license for quarrying stones from the Muguwa Khola.
The illegal stone mining is causing environmental degradation on the one hand and evasion of tax on the other. Stones used in the construction of the embankment along the Rapti river from Khallajhagadiya to Piprahawa are all illegally mined from the Chure hill side inside the community forest.
The local ward chairman Ram Lakhan Tharu said that although he has taken initiatives to stop the illegal stone mining takingplace from the forest area in his ward, he has not been able to do it. "We have not been able to stop the illegal quarrying of stones due to the collusion on all sides," ward chair Tharu, expressed his desperation.
Tharu said the illegal mining is going in collusion of the District Forest Office; local administration and community forests. “When I tried to intervene in it, I came to know that it was taking place on a setting involving multiple sides. I alone not in position of doing anything to control it,” he said, adding that some people accused him of being an anti-development agent for voicing against the illegal business. As he said, the rural municipality is also not cooperating with him to stop the mining taking place unlawfully.
Raptisonari rural municipality chair Lahuram Tharu said the local government has demanded the recommendation from the respective ward to get permission for the mining and for the same decision, it has been facing unabated pressure from those groups involved in illegal extraction.
“The Save Chure Campaign is in force under the President Chure Conservation Programme so we are not in the position of giving permission for the mining. But pressure from the forest committee office bearers and even from the political leadership continues,” ward chair Tharu said. Those locals and people’s representatives standing against such business are being reprimanded by Mandapawa Community Forest chair Hanif Khan.
What locals say about the issue
Locals said that Mandapawa Community Forest Users’ Group chair Khan was openly citing that he arranged the setting for illegal mining by giving Rs 500 thousands to the police and forest employees.
As they said, the contractors’ company Kumar Shrestha Construction Service based on the bank of Rapti River has commissioned the Mandapawa Community Forest Users’ Group to take it into its confidence for operating the illegal mining.