KATHMANDU: Nepal's Supreme Court on Friday issued an interim order against the government's decision to export sand, stones and pebbles to India in a bid to bridge the widening trade deficit, after environmentalists and Opposition leaders raised concerns that the move will have serious environmental implications for the Himalayan nation.
A joint bench of Chief Justice Cholendra SJB Rana, justices Mira Khadka, Hari Krishna Karki and Bishwambhar Prasad Shrestha asked the government of beleaguered Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli not to implement its policy to extract sand, pebbles and stones for export until there is a final decision on the case.
During the unveiling of the budget for fiscal year 2021-22, Finance Minister Bishnu Paudel had announced that the government would export these materials to reduce the widening trade deficit facing the country.
Currently, Nepal has put a ban on the export of sand, stones and pebbles.
Nepal's Opposition parties have also taken serious objection to the government's decision to export sands and pebbles.
Environmentalists have also warned the government against the decision, pointing to its serious implication to the country's environment.
They had raised concern that this decision, if implemented, would destroy the Chure range of hills near the southern border of the country and invite environmental disasters.
Last week, five former prime ministers -- Sher Bahadur Deuba, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal and Baburam Bhattarai- took strong exception to the decision taken by the government to export sand, pebbles and stones to India in the name of bridging the trade deficit.
The Supreme Court in its interim order said that the government's decision violates Articles 30 and 51 of the Constitution, said senior advocate Dinesh Tripathi, one of the writ petitioners.
Article 30 relates to the environment while Article 51 relates to the basis for the policies of the state.
With the House of Representatives dissolved, the caretaker government had presented the budget through an ordinance.
In the fiscal budget, Finance Minister Poudel had said that based on environmental impact assessment, mine-based stones, pebbles and sand can be exported to minimise the trade deficit.
Seven different writ petitions had been registered at the Supreme Court, demanding that extracting from Chure hills to decrease the trade deficit with India would degrade the environment.
There had been widespread criticism of the provision of the budget speech saying that it would degrade the environment and there would not be enough of these materials needed for construction if Nepal exported them.
The apex court has also ordered the government to furnish reasons behind the government policy within 15 days.