Boulders and sand dredged illegally from Amochhu

Works are carried out when no officials are seen at the sites

Except at nights, river bed materials, especially boulders and sand, are dredged illegally from Amochhu and transported almost daily by people living in the Indian border town of Jaigaon.

The practice has been going on for a long time and around 30 truckloads and 20 tractors of materials are transported daily from the riverbank.

Without border along the river, it has become easy for them to transport the boulders and sand. Tractors and trucks can be seen at the banks loading boulders and sand. There have also been incidences in the past where securities were chased with stones. A few activities also take place at nights with the help of moonlight and torches.

Meanwhile, the site from the border till Omchhu was once awarded to Buddha Construction by the Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL) for dredging and embankment works.

The proprietor, BB Tamang, said the activities have stopped when his company started dredging works. The work was stopped from July till November, 2018. However, illegal dredging of boulders and sand has resumed again. 

“Every year, the works continue until summer when the river swells.  The activity happens for almost nine months a year,” he said, adding that the sewerage tanks were saved due to dredging works as the company had piled stocks of materials to safeguard the tanks.

“It’s happening daily these days. Our natural resources are being transported,” the proprietor said, adding that the contractor had blocked the border to restrict entry of Indian registered vehicles, but the walls have been broken when the works were stopped.

 Meanwhile, works are carried out when no officials are seen at the sites. At times, they dredge and stock the materials which are then transported at night.

 Currently, boulders are exported at Nu 1,400 per metric ton (MT) to Bangladesh and Nu 900 to India. A truckload carries up to 25MT and a tractor 5MT.

Talking to Business Bhutan, officials from the forestry department say that people run away whenever the monitoring team reaches the site. The team has recently seized a tractor, which is still at their office. “Nothing can be done as the people drive too fast putting the team’s lives into risk if confronted,” an official said. The team has also apprehended a person.

The team makes regular monitoring, but has been unable to curb dredging works and transportation. It is learnt that people involved in the practice flee at the sight of the team making it challenging for them to completely curb the problem. The activities continue again when the team goes back.

The Phuentsholing Thromde has awarded the site to CDCL for Phuentsholing Township Development Project and the AFCONS infrastructure Limited is working on the development of the project.

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing