Friday, 1 December, 2023

Working in river with sand for survival


By Hari Prasad Koirala
Urlabari, Apr. 5: To say Chisang River is a lifeline for the poor families of Kanepokhari, Morang would be an understatement. It is what feeds their children every day and its stones and sand are what bring money into their homes. “Without the river, there would be no us,” expressed Gole Rishidev.

“In construction works, contractors do not treat us well. Digging and tilling are done by excavators. We cannot work in fields because there are hardly any fields left. The land where once crops grew is now covered by concrete houses,” Rishidev, who was sifting sand on the bank of the Chisang River, took a moment off to talk to The Rising Nepal.

The 35-year-old, a resident of Kanepokhari Rural Municipality–2, has a wife and four children, all of whom work with him in the river. None of his children goes to school. Many generations of Rishidev’s family have lived and died in Nepal – although he does not know exactly how many. What he does know, though, is that his father was granted citizenship by birth, not by descent. “People with citizenship by birth cannot confer nationality on their children. As a result, my father’s son (me) does not have a citizenship certificate,” Rishidev explained why his children were out of school. “Without a citizenship, I cannot register my children’s births. Without birth registrations, they cannot get into educational institutions.”

Rishidev feels great sorrow about his children not receiving an education. But what can he do? He has now left everything to fate and focuses only on earning money so that he can provide two square meals and clothes to his family.

From dusk till dawn, Rishidev and his wife dig and plough the banks of the Chisang River, collect sand and sell in the market. This helps them earn about Rs. 1,500 a day. Of this, they have to give Rs. 100 to the owner of the land they dig for every tractor of sand they extract.

Gole is just one of the hundreds of people who rely on the river for their livelihood.
Pujara Kisku, 35, and his partner, 57-year-old Dev Narayan Chaudhary, manage to collect three tractors of sand every day. Neither of them has any land to their names. Kisku lives next to the river he mines at Hoklabari, Kanepokhari–1 and Chaudhary lives near a road. But they are content as they feel they have been able to provide a decent life to their kids.
“I have seven children – three daughters have been married and three more, along with my only son, are in school,” he said.

Kisku and Chaudhary shared that they earned Rs. 900 (Rs. 1,000 on good days) every day from mining sand. They used to work as labourers in the construction sector but “we always had to struggle to get the contractor or the employer to pay us our full wages,” Chaudhary said. So, for the past five years, they have been building their lives on the sand of Chisang.

This is also what Sanu Rishidev has been doing. The 42-year-old spent years looking for work in the villages. When he could not find it, he sought to go abroad but could not afford the expenses. So, he declared Chisang his god 12 years ago and began extracting sand and ballast.

“We have not had to go hungry since,” he said, sharing that he earned up to Rs. 2,000 on days his family members helped him out. “Riverine materials are in high demand because construction works are in full swing,” he said.