But according to the National Natural Resources and Finance Commission, the government collected only Rs4.62 billion in revenue from sand and gravel contractors in the current fiscal year despite one-third of municipalities across the country having signed contracts for excavation. It is clear that most of the mining is illegal, or are licensed in exchange for kickbacks.
The business is being driven by a surge in construction across the country, which has raised the demand for building material. The trade is so lucrative that political party leaders, the local administration and police officials are all in on it. In the 2017 local level elections, 68 among the 616 elected persons from 137 municipalities of Province 2 had affiliations with excavation contractors.
Dev Prakash Tripathi is a journalist, who after seeing rampant illegal sand mining in his native Malekhu has become an activist with the ‘Save Trisuli Campaign’ in Dhading district. He says, “Leaders and people’s representatives of all political parties have invested in the sand and gravel trade, which means their businesses are above the law.”
Some big names linked to sand and quarry contractors are Krishna Lal Shrestha, chairman of Galchi Municipality of Dhading, Rajendra Pandey, leader of CPN (Unified Socialist), Bhumi Tripathi, and Salikram Jamarkattel, leader of CPN-Maoist Centre.
Bishwa Aryal and Prabhat Kiran Subedi of the Nepali Congress have also been found directly or indirectly involved. A local government chief in Mahottari district, who did not want to be named, admitted that he would not be able to cover his election expenses unless he supported sand extraction.
He says matter-of-factly, “I can’t sell my house to pay for the election. What’s wrong with selling sand and pebbles that are washed down by the rivers?”
Such criminal callousness angers families like the Layomagars and Khatuns who have lost their children to drowning on sand pits, and to Ramjivan Mahato whose activist son was killed by lawless contractors in cahoots with local politicians.
Here in Dhanusa, the excavators and tipper trucks of the Churiyamai Sand Processing Centre are back on the banks of the Aurahi River, digging up sand and gravel. The company is still threatening the Mahato family.
Says Ramjivan: “They say we already killed one of your children, don’t make us kill another one.”
Translated from the original article by Aryan Sitaula.
Kathmandu creeps up surrounding mountains, Mukesh Pokhrel