Collecting Gold From River Sand: A Profession That’s Disappearing

Bote community people in the Tanahun district have been worried about their livelihood as their traditional profession of collecting gold from the sand of local rivers is about to disappear.

The people of the marginalised community of Bote village of Byas Municipality-10 are greatly worried after the level of sand diminished in the river bank from where they used to collect gold.

“In the past, there used to be a lot of gold in the sand but nowadays, there is not much gold, and we fear we will be displaced from our ancestral profession,” said Karna Bahadur Bote of Bote village.

Chairman of the Bote Samaj Niraj Majhi said that the traditional profession of the community was in crisis as it was difficult to find gold in the sand.

“When all the sand is taken away by dozers leaving only soil on the riverbank, it is impossible to find gold there,” Majhi added. Jit Bahadur Bote, who went to search for gold to make his living, said that he and his friends were forced to return home empty-handed as they could not find raw gold at all in the sand.

It is said that no gold was found in the sand this year as there was no landslide in the gold mine areas. According to Shrikrishna Acharya, a resident of Dumsi village near Bote village, the profession of Bote is in crisis due to a lack of gold in the sand accumulated on the river banks.

He informed that most of the peoplein the Bote community are financially weak because of their poor educational level.

“If their gold mining technology can be linked to tourism, the area can be developed a new destination for tourism,” Acharya said. Ward Chairman Tulsiram Sapkota said that they have been planning to attract tourists by making a statue of a boat used by the Bote and Majhi people.

The Bote people mostly frequent the Marshyangdi, Trishuli, and Budhi Kaligandaki rivers in search of gold. They go around the river banks carrying blankets and tend to stay there for a couple of months looking for gold.

According to Santa Bahadur Bote, more gold can be found on the bank of the Karnali River, however, it is difficult to reach there due to lack of proper transportation. Harka Bahadur Bote informed that there are 32 households of the Bote community in the municipality. They leave their children and old people at home and go in search of gold every year during the season.

They search for gold till May and bring at least one tola to half a tola of gold annually. The community celebrates thee festivals like Dashain by taking loans from local gold and silver shops and repay the loans by searching for gold again