FJA Shortlist 2021

Category: Excellence in Environmental Journalism

Author: Bhrikuti Rai (Nepal)


Drawing a Line in the Sand; 

Permit to Plunder: How the Environment is Paying the Price for Nepal Local Governments’ Greed; 

Environment Conservation Takes a Back Seat in the Budget.

The original publications is available via the following links: 

Drawing a Line in the Sand

Nepali Times - January 8, 2021

A year after Dilip Mahato was killed by the sand mafia, his family still seeks justice, and illegal mining continues unabatedBhrikuti Rai in Dhanusa

Each time Sangam Mahato passes the excavators scooping up sand from the Aurahi River, it brings back painful memories of her brother, Om Prakash. Also known as ‘Dilip’, her brother had been protesting illegal sand mining, and pushing for the conservation of the ecologically fragile Chure Hills.

Dilip was murdered on 10 January 2020, crushed beneath the wheels of a tipper truck. He was only 24.

“My brother had been in arguments with contractors who he believed were destroying the Chure and the rivers nearby with uncontrolled excavation,” recalls Sangam. “But we never thought that his activism would cost him his life.”

Read more

Permit to Plunder: How the Environment is Paying the Price for Nepal Local Governments’ Greed

Centre for Investigative Journalism-Nepal - April 20, 2021

Like most locals from villages dotting the banks of the Indrawati in the Sindhupalchok district of central Nepal, Kamal Ratna Danuwar grew up with stories that revered the river. After all, the perennial waters of the snow-fed Indrawati nourished their fields and gave villagers bountiful harvests twice a year.

Danuwar remembers running barefoot along the banks of the turquoise river with a bamboo fishing rod in one hand and his game in the other. As a young boy, he was told that bringing back anything other than fish was a bad omen. “Not even a pebble,” he remembers his elders berating him. They believed anything brought back from the river would bring home angry spirits since the same river that fed them was also where they performed the last rites of their dead. So, young Danuwar, heeding the elders’ warning, brought home nothing but the fish he caught.

“Twenty-five years ago, we never thought that these pebbles and stones from the river were so precious,” he said. “If only the villagers knew what fortunes these stones hold, they would all have been prosperous by now.”

Danuwar knows very well just how precious the stones from the river are; as the ward chair of Indrawati-12, he has dealt with numerous sand and stone-processing groups vying to set up shops in the areas under his jurisdiction.

Read more

Environment Conservation Takes a Back Seat in the Budget

The Record - 30 May 2021

The government’s decision to resume the export of sand and gravel to reduce the trade deficit will lead to the wholesale exploitation of the environment, say conservationists and lawmakers

For environmentalist Bijay Kumar Singh, who has been rallying support for the protection of the Chure region for decades, his biggest win came in 2014, when the government decided to halt the export of construction material like sand and gravel to control the excessive exploitation of the Chure’s rivers and hills. 

“It was an impact of sound policy,” said Singh, a board member of the President Chure Conservation Board until 2016. Singh was among several environmentalists and lawmakers who had long been pushing for stronger regulations on sand and boulder mining, especially from the rivers. The restrictions in 2014 were welcome as they had not been used to the lack of concrete legislation to effectively regulate industries that are plundering the environment. 

“But I fear that the government might reopen the export of sand and gravel because there is no law to stop them from doing so,” Singh had told me in April, something that he brings up each time he speaks about environmental conservation.

Read more