Latest and disturbing images taken on May 27, 2020 display brazen riverbed mining in Yamuna river in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. The images related to Vikas Nagar stretch of river show that miners have not only created a temporary bridge across the riverbed to transport mined material but also using heavy machines to dig the riverbed. In the process the river flow has been impounded at the location.
Sources reveal that active river channel is being compromised by in-stream mining operations. It is learnt that the mining is being done hardly 300 meters from Haripur bridge connecting Vikas Nagar to Kalsi.
According to mining rules creation of temporary or permanent structures impeding river flows, natural path are prohibited. So is the use of heavy machines in riverbed and in-stream riverbed mining. Similarly, mining operations are not allowed upto 500 metres of up and downstream of drinking & irrigation projects, bridge or barrage structures on the river.
Clearly, with the support state government and administration, the miners have ruthlessly thrown every rule of sustainable sand mining practices into the river.
Recently fearing flood fury & land erosion, local people have objected to the illegal mining activities which is ironically being carried out behind the pretext of flood protection work. Even during lockdown time the area is witnessing illegal mining activities round the clock.
Two Himachal Pradesh forest department guards were recently grievously attacked by miners near Poanta Sahib for objecting to illegal mining in Yamuna river. After the assault, the attackers had escaped to Vikas Nagar area.
The structures of Shakti Canal and Dakpathar barrage have been threatened by the illegal mining operations.
The situation some 5 km upstream is equally alarming, where a stone crusher unit at Bausan village have been mining riverbed lying between Hathiyari and Katapathar for past two years. Riverbed here has been dotted with mining pits.
Locals also complain of significant air and noise pollution by the crusher unit affecting their health and livelihoods adversely. They also rue that local media and administration has totally been ignoring their plight despite repeated attempts.
Another stone crusher unit at proposed Lakhwar dam site was last year found doing in-stream deep mining and processing riverbed materials without having permission for full one year. When administration failed to take any action villagers protested against the unit.
However given the involvement of an influential politician, they were harassed by the local police. Seeing system apathy; they now feel helplessness and have given up on hopes of legal remedy.
Sadly the large scale mechanized and illegal mining of sand has been going on in river Yamuna all through the upper segment in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh districts.
Despite frequent protests by local villagers and farmers there has been no change. The brazen and rampant illegal mining incidents in Yamuna evidently hints at indifference of institutional bodies towards the cause of river conservation.
Some of SANDRP field visit reports and overviews listed below on the issue present a wakeup call for all concerned before it’s too late.
Bhim Singh Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org)