The river is dying: A sad tale of loss and contamination of Trishuli 

Once a pristine river, Trishuli is falling victim to haphazard development and waste mismanagement, posing a threat to its tourism potential.

The Trishuli has turned muddy brown due to the pollution from rock crushing. (Photo: The Third Pole)

Ashim Neupane

  • Read Time 3 min.

Dhading: While growing up, Hari Ale, a local of Trishuli, learned river activities in a clean Trishuli River. The river, one and a half decades ago, was a clean blue mass of the following water, even the sight of which caught the attention of the onlookers. One could drink from it without hesitation. The river was like a life incarnate. The water, according to Ale, was so clean that fishes were visible from the river shore.

But in just a decade, the river is dying. The fish population has declined severely. And the clean blue water has turned brown. The river shore is full of litter. Ale fears the river tourism activities in Trishuli might get displaced in a few years. “The river is dirty. The river shore is full of waste dumped by the local government. And in addition, a power company is constructing a dam in Phisling for a 100 MW project. There will be no river tourism activities,” said Hari Ale.

“How come the government is not serious? Can we imagine Trishuli without river tourism?” questions Ale. 

Hydro construction

At least 50 percent of tourists arriving in Nepal enjoy rafting activities. Of them, 80 percent raft in Trishuli River, according to rafting companies.

According to the Nepal Association of Rafting Agencies (NARA), a private company is constructing hydropower in Trishuli. “The company is constructing a dam in Phisling in Trishuli. The hydro project, if constructed, will destroy river tourism in Trishuli,” said Megh Ale, vice president at NARA. 

“The Devighat to Devghat section of the Trishuli River is the best for rafting activities. The hydro project will displace all the river activities in Trishuli,” said Sishir Khanal, general secretary at NARA.

Even when the company conducted an environmental impact assessment (EIA), the company mentioned that there are six rafting companies and 12 river guides conducting rafting activities in Trishuli. But, according to NARA, there are 3,500 river guides, and 82 rafting companies conducting river activities in Trishuli.

Tourists enjoy rafting in the Trishuli River on March 15, 2016. Photo: RSS

“We are not even called for public hearings. Can we afford losing river tourism in the name of development?” questioned Megh Ale. “The hydropower should be constructed elsewhere in Trishuli, not in the Devighat-Devghat section.”

The fish population has declined severely. And the clean blue water has turned brown. The river shore is full of litter.

According to NARA, billions have been invested in the region, and almost 10,000 jobs have been created by the private sector. “The investment, the jobs, and the tourism activities will go in vain,” said Khanal, adding the association has requested the authorities concerned to stop the construction, but there has been no response yet. 

The River is dying

According to Hari Ale, it is not about the hydro construction, the local government has been dumping waste on the river shore. “Even the authorities concerned are not serious about preserving the river,” he said. 

A volunteer group has been defending the Trishuli river from exploitation by sand miners, but with just a little success, said Ale. “Although sand excavation is banned in Nepal, hundreds of tractors and trucks are carrying sand from the river,” he said. 

According to locals, there are more than 1,000 trucks in the Dhading district just to carry sand from the river.

Sand mining in Trishuli River. (Photo: The Third Pole)

Even though sand mining is banned in Nepal, sand minings and crushers are being operated along the river with abandon. “Thousands of tonnes of sand and mud from the sites are mixed in the river. It has made the river polluted. The river is dying. It is not the same as it was a few decades ago,” said Sishir Khanal.