Chure’s exploitation goes unchecked

Rajkaran Mahato

Rajkaran Mahato

Chure’s exploitation goes unchecked

Authorities have turned a blind eye on illegal crusher plants that occupy the rivers and streams that flow from the Chure

Illegal extraction of construction aggregate and deforestation in the Chure region has long been a cause for concern that has never quite been addressed.

The Chure hill range is spread across 37 Tarai districts, and over the years, its resources have been exploited to the point people living on its foothills are facing environmental consequences.

“There was a time when Chure was a blessing for the Tarai. It used to be an important source of freshwater for civilizations below,” Bijaya Kumar Singh, a Chure expert says. “Now landslide and drought have become common occurrences in the region.”

According to the 1986 report of the Land Resource Mapping Project, the Chure region consisted of 1.45m hectares of forest cover. The Chure forest size has shrunk rapidly since then. The Forest Resource Survey report of 2010 put the Chure’s forest size at 1.37m hectares.

Conservationists and experts say the forest cover of Chure has reduced exponentially in the past 12 years, as its resources are getting exploited at the behest of powerful political leaders.

 They add the authorities are turning a blind eye on illegal crusher plants that occupy the rivers and streams that flow from the Chure.

Crusher operators and timber traders resort to threat and violence if they are met with opposition.  

On 10 Jan 2020, Chure activist Dilip Mahato was murdered by the thugs paid by a crusher operator in Dhanusha district. Chure conservation campaigns have gained many supporters in recent years, but such campaigns are largely citizen-led, hence powerless. 

“Crusher operators are above the law because they work hand in glove with local politicians,” says Som Prasad Sharma, Madhes province chair of the Federation of Community Forestry Users’ Nepal. “For them, Chure is a gold mine and they have no qualms about using violence or bribes to continue their illegal business.”

Their actions have led the water sources to dwindle in many Tarai districts during the dry season.

“Chure deforestation has dried up the water sources, which becomes evident during winter,” says Nagadev Yadav, a Chure conservationist. 

“It is opposite during the monsoon. There are floods and landslides due to over-mining of riverbed close to human settlements.”

According to a Home Ministry’s report, 156 people lost their lives and 30 others remain unaccounted for in the Madhes province in flood-related incidents. 

Experts say stopping mining and logging activities in the Chure region alone will solve half of the problem. The rest, they say, can be taken care of through afforestation and other rejuvenation campaigns.

“There should be a sustainable symbiotic relationship between the Chure range and the communities living on its foothills. This is the only way to restore balance,” says Girirajmani Pokharel, a former education minister, who is currently leading a green campaign in Madhes.

Ramashish Yadav, environmental campaigner and assembly member of Madhes Province, says people should understand that Chure is the lifeline of Madhes.

 “It is upon us all to conserve Chure,” he says. “We cannot survive without Chure.”