By Bhishma Raj Ojha, Kathmandu, June 9: The government has made it clear that the policy of exporting aggregates to reduce trade deficit mentioned in the budget for fiscal year 2021/22 is not related with Chure area.
The government clarified that the pebble, gravel and sand said to be exported would be extracted only from 92 quarries of 14 districts which are already identified by the Department of Mines and Geology.
The point no 199 of the recently released budget has mentioned that trade deficit would be reduced by exporting pebble, gravel and sand on the basis of environmental impact assessment.
Saying attempts have been made to politicise this provision in the budget in the name of Chure though the point 199 of the budget has not mentioned about Chure, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bishnu Prasad Poudel said that there would not be any interference on the Chure ecology.
He expressed the commitment the government would not make any compromise in Chure area protection, adding that Chure is our important heritage and concern over its protection is natural.
At a virtual programme organized today by Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (NEFEJ), Finance Minister Poudel shared that the government would not carry out any activity beyond the constitutional and legal provision.
The government has a plan to extract pebbles, gravels and sand from the 92 quarries which are already identified, he added. He further said that the government is fully aware about the environmental misbalance due to exploration and export of mines.
Saying unnecessary rumor has been spread that Siddhababa hill under Chure is going to be cut-down, the Finance Minister made it clear that a process for the construction of tunnel has been forwarded in order to stop human casualties taking place every year from the landslide there.
Similarly, Finance Secretary Shishir Dhungana said that different countries of the world have made progress by exporting goods available with them and its trade.
He shared, “The government is aware about that mining of construction materials should be supplied in the country first and the remaining should be exported. The programme has been brought with this purpose.”
National Planning Commission member Dr Krishna Prasad Oli expressed the view that the government could achieve prosperity if natural heritages could be utilized in a long-term manner by using modern technology.
He added that this policy is necessary to construct and develop big projects of the country.
President Chure Terai Madhesh Conservation Development Committee Chairperson Kiran Poudel said that post-budget discussions and arguments on this very government’s policy had further clarified the matter and it was evident that the policy was not related to quarrying in the Chure area.
He was of the view that we should not harp on the problems that could rise in the Chure area, instead we should try and find the ways to prevent the problems before it arises and mitigate them if they already exist.
Chure area occupies 12.78 per cent of the total area of the country. It sprawls across 37 districts and stretches from Ilam district in the eastern part of the country to Kanchanpur to the west.
Secretary at the Ministry of Forest and Environment Pem Narayan Kandel shared that the government’s policy of excavation and export of sand, soil, gavel and other aggregates had nothing to do with the Chure area. According to him the Chure area did not have quality stones worthy of export either.
Department of Mines Director General Ram Prasad Ghimire opined that excavation of raw construction materials would best be quarried from the mines than rivers. According to him, excavation of the minerals from 92 identified mines would fetch the government more revenues than those from rivers.
The government in 2071 BS had identified a total of 92 mines from Dhankuta, Morang in the east to Chitwan, Makawanpur in the central part of the country to Surkhet, Doti, Dadeldhura among others.
He also informed that all those identified mines lie across the Mid-hill areas not in Chure area nor in its bordering areas.
Environmentalist Binod Bhatta suggested the government to consider other ways and means to reduce the trade deficit other than considering excavation and imports of soil, salt, stones and other aggregates.
He also warned that excessive extraction would lead to increasing soil erosion and rise in the surface of the rivers subsequently. Rivers cover 3.79 per cent of the Chure area.
Likewise, Dr Bijaya Kumar Singh, who had conducted his research for PhD on Chure related issues, claimed that those 92 identified mines in 14 districts were also in and around the Chure area.
Geologist Meghraj Dhital said that there would be no environmental issues if the government could take up policy of excavation of the aggregates after thoroughly conducting scientific studies/research.
Journalist Chandra Kishore spoke of the need for one and all including the government to be aware and alert about the contingencies and any disasters occurring in the Terai belt due to the excessive and wanton excavation as well as undue exploitation of the Chure area.
NEFEJ president Kosmos Bishwakarma expressed his happiness over the widespread concerns among the stakeholders over conservation of the Chure area. NEFEJ has been championing the cause of environmental conservation, said the President of NEFEJ.