Murky Biz Of Sand Mining

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By Murari Chaturvedi, Founder of Accommodation Times

The excessive loot of the country’s river beds by the sand mafia with the active connivance of contractors, politicians and bureau crates goes on unabated. Sand being the principal construction material is much in demand in the booming construction industry in the country.

The legally allotted areas for sand mining are way behind the actual mining areas which are far exceeding their allotted areas. The government had launched a month-long campaign against illegal sand mining between 15 December 2011 and 15 January 2012 asking all district collectors to appoint teams selected from revenue, mining, forest and police departments to take action to stop illegal sand mining. But these teams took cosmetic steps just for records.

The case of Mr Narendra Singh an IPS Officer, who was crushed to death in broad daylight by a tractor loaded with illegally mined stones near Morena, is the example of the mafia raj in this illegal business. The states where rampant sand mining is taking place, are proving helpless to check it. In Maharashtra, where environmental clearance is compulsory, and permission from gram sabha for sand mining, still the creeks at Thane, Navi Mumbai, Raigad, Ratnagiri are worst affected areas. In Gujarat rivers, Ambika, Kaveri, Tapi and Khapra are the hub of illegal mining.

In Karnataka rivers, Cauvery, Lakshmanteerta, Harangi, Hemvathi, Nethravatai and Paganism are the victims of sand mining. Likewise in Kerala 10 rivers, Tamilnadu 11 rivers, Andhra Pradesh 5 rivers, Odessa, coastal areas, West Bengal 2 areas, Bihar 28 areas, Uttrakhand 3 areas, Nagaland 1 river and Madhya Pradesh 4 rivers, are being vandalized by the sand mafia. Surprisingly there are no official figures about the need for sand produced and needed in the country.

High courts in many states have been unable to salvage the sand mining sector. A total anarchy prevails throughout the country. The need of the hour is to create a central sand mining authority. Sand obtained from desalting of all the major reservoirs in the Country can meet the requirements of the construction industry for the next 10 years, says a study by the centre for Earth Research and Environment Management at Ernakulam. By mining sand from reservoirs, it can help unsustainable mining of riverbeds.

At the same time, it will also increase the capacity of dams and can also earn good revenue for the government. Environmental Impact Assessment must be made compulsory in the sand mining sector. As the riverbed, sand mining has an impact on the ecosystem throughout the length of the river. An effective national authority is needed to regularize the sand mining throughout the country.

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