Sustainable Roads and Mining

Transport infrastructure provides a basis for economic activities in the rural areas in the long term. But the environmental consequences can not be neglected only foreseeing long-term economic benefit. Difficult topography and unstable geology make road construction difficult in the rural hills of Nepal. Beside, the predominantly absolute poverty in the region realizes the essence of the appropriate approach in the rural road construction. With its approach of constructing rural roads considering environment and rural poverty alleviation measures, Green road approach is proving to be a sustainable way of constructing rural roads. Environment friendly construction techniques, participatory and decentralization approach, optimum utilization of local resources, simple technology, local capacity building and self help efforts justified.  Green road approach as a best way of constructing rural roads in hill districts of Nepal. 

Gravel and sand aggregate mining constitute a significant base for economic activity in the mid-hill and Tarai watesheds of Nepal. Even with hundreds of tractors, trucks and excavation equipment deployed daily across the Lower Mahakali and Lower Karnali watersheds, supply cannot meet demand. Licences for aggregate mining form an important resource base, generating about 7.5-10 million Nepali rupees (NRs) per year across just four municipalities. Mining provides opportunities for employment, from direct labor to secondary equipment and maintenance supply. Aggregate resources are an important input for construction of houses, buildings, airports, bridges, and hydropower projects, both in Nepal and across the border. Impacts on aquatic biodiversity are extensive and wide-ranging. Loss of riverbanks and riparian vegetation destroy food sources, while increased turbidity decreases fish navigation and breathing capabilities. Miners themselves practice destructive fishing, while pollutants from heavy equipment leach into the water. Indeed, impacts occur across all levels of the riverine trophic order. Rivers are most suitable for mining are at the same time that many fish are migrating during the pre- and post-monsoon seasons, placing increased pressure on aquatic ecosystems just when fish are most vulnerable. 

Nepal’s regulatory environment for aggregate extraction includes many robust tools. Legally, the law provides for heavy regulation of the mining sector, including provisions for extensive initial environmental examinations (IEEs) and environmental impact assessments (EIAs). There are scheduled limits on quantities that can be legally extracted and legal recourse for projects that cause significant adverse impacts. However, in the sites surveyed for this report, IEEs are not always carried out, rarely are their measures fully implemented, and they are almost never monitored. This is a due to a combination of a lack of capacity and lack of political will for enforcement. In the other extreme, some protected areas have been so successful at enforcement that surrounding areas are under pressure from heavy siltation, leading to waterlogging and flooding that may be relieved by allowing some mining of the river bed.