The overview presents picture of river sand mining in Odisha based on available information in public domain from past 18 months.
Illegal Sand Mining Incidents
May 2019 Brick kilns spur illegal mining Scores of illegal brick kilns operating in Samana and Habaleswar panchayats under Hatadihi block in Keonjhar district had spurred illegal mining from riverbeds. As a result, the state government was losing crores of rupees revenue. The miners had encroached upon government and pastureland and set up brick kilns without sanction of the Odisha State Pollution Control Board.
Locals were upset with the mushrooming growth of brick kilns almost everywhere – by road sides, near schools and near villages. Brick kilns were contributing to warming up the atmosphere in summer. Such illegal brick kilns consumed a huge quantity of soil. Truckloads of soil were illegally excavated and supplied to the brick kilns. Various groups had demanded necessary steps towards curbing both illegal brick making and sand mining. http://www.orissapost.com/brick-kilns-spur-illegal-sand-mining/ (18 May 2019)
June 2019 Illegal sand mining hits construction activities The Jagatsinghpur district administration’s failure to check illegal sand lifting from Mahanadi and Devi river beds was not only leading to loss of revenue but also hampering construction activities in Jagatsinghpur. Illegal sand mining was rampant in different tehsils of the district where the directives of the NGT are flouted. This had led to shortage of sand, and sand price had skyrocketed. Inadequate number of quarrying sites and restriction on quarrying on Devi, Prachi and Mahanadi river beds had also affected construction activity.
Thousands of people residing in riverside villages in Kujang and Tirtol blocks largely depended on the river ecosystem. Over the years, their livelihood had been marred by the activities of sand mafia, who used political intimidation and administrative apathy to rob locals of the sand. While the use of illegal machines was banned under Minor Minerals Act, 1963 and NGT orders, they were used extensively by the mafia.
The contractors working on road and other projects in Paradip had been violating the NGT directive with regard to use of such machines, including JCBs. Locals said sand traders had illegally encroached upon the river bed of Mahanadi in Tirtol where they had hoarded huge quantity of sand to sell it at a premium ahead of monsoon. Sand from the river bed was also transported to other places. http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2019/jun/05/illegal-sand-mining-hits-construction-activities-in-jagatsinghpur-district-of-odisha-1986257.html (5 June 2019)
Balasore locals detain trucks protesting sand mining Irate residents of Sikharpur village in Balasore district on June 6 detained more than 100 trucks and tractors engaged in lifting of sand illegally from Subarnarekha river bed. The villagers also staged a road blockade protesting the district administration’s failure to check the activities of sand mafia who had been looting the resource from the area with impunity.
Laxmikant Giri, a villager, said instead of labourers, JCBs were being used which led to formation of craters on the river bed. This had adversely affected flow of water in the river and also caused erosion of its embankments, he added. “The traders lift more sand than permitted in connivance with the local administration,” Giri alleged. As per guidelines, miners should dig only up to five feet for lifting sand. But they often dug more than 15 feet. The villagers warned of intensifying protest if administration failed to take action against the errant miners. http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2019/jun/07/locals-detain-trucks-protesting-sand-mining-1987064.html (7 June 2019)
Riverside villagers up in arms against illegal sand miners Illegal sand mining continued unabated in several rivers of Kendrapada district and locals alleged a nexus among the officials and the sand mafia. Luna, Chitrotola, Mahanadi and other rivers in Kendrapara district were being plundered without any environmental clearance, they complained. Unauthorised quarrying was on in about 30 places.
Each day hundreds of tractors and trucks entered the village to carry sand worsening the condition of the village roads. Last year, the Special Task Force crime branch had summoned Kendrapara and Jajpur district officials regarding leasing out river beds for sand-mining to notorious gangster Usman Ali alias Tito and his associates. https://localwire.me/riverside-villagers-up-in-arms-against-illegal-sand-miners/ (12 June 2019)
Oct. 2019 The images in the tweets by Siddharath Agarwal show sand mining operation on Daya River at Bhubaneswar completely blocking off this distributary of the Mahanadi. https://twitter.com/sidagarwal/status/1196049834710405120
Feb. 2020 Illegal sand mining from Ib river Illegal sand mining from Ib River was going unabated, while the Sundargarh district administration turned a blind eye. Locals had alleged that the officials concerned prefer to ignore the activity as Sand Mafia grease their palms. Rampant sand mining from the river bed poses threat to the ecology & also causes loss to the state revenue department.
Ib river, which originates from the neighbouring Chhattisgarh, enters Sundargarh district near Telijora under Balishankara block. However, the river bed is being drained of sand by the mafia who had settled down in the locality. Illegal sand mining was rampant in Ib river, flowing through the four blocks– Balishankara, Subdega, Sundargarh Sadar and Tangarpalli — in Sundargarh district. Residents said that an impartial probe would unearth over 50 illegal sand mining sites in these four blocks.
The Mafia was reportedly supplying the extracted sand to different parts of the state and the neighbouring states right under the nose of the district administration. Sand-laden trucks could be seen plying on the roads in the day hours. Besides, earthmovers and Poclain excavators, engaged in sand mining, could be also seen at different sand blocks.
It was said that the sand mafia has forcibly paved a road on the land of a tribal man at Daijamahul village under Subdega block. Despite repeated complaints made to Sundargarh Collector, illegal sand transportation through the route was not stopped. https://pragativadi.com/illegal-sand-mining-from-ib-river-fumes-residents-of-sundargarh/ (9 Feb 2020)
Mahanadi looted, admin silent With the Jagatsinghpur district administration turning a blind eye to illegal sand mining, not only had river erosion posed a grave threat to the areas along the Mahanadi, but also people’s lives were in danger.
Mahanadi was silently being robbed off its sand right under the nose of the administration, elected representatives including sarpanchs and ward members. Tractors, JCBs, haiwas and even cranes were used to lift several truckloads of sand from the river bed every day. Residents of a few villages of Kujang block were in panic as their homestead and arable land were under threat due to river erosion. Deep digging and drilling leads to formation of ponds enhancing risk of the river changing its course during floods. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2020/feb/23/mahanadi-river-bed-looted-by-sand-mafia-administration-silent-2107264.html (23 Feb. 2020)
April 2020 Despite lockdown, illegal mining With police and the administration busy in managing the lockdown, sand mafia and unauthorised brick kilns stepped up their activities not only robbing the rivers but also raising the threat of coronavirus spread.
While illegal sand mining is rampant on the banks of Mahanadi, Kathajodi, Chitrotpala, Luna, Devi and Birupa rivers in the Cuttack district, several unauthorised brick kilns are operating in Cuttack Sadar, Nischintakoili, Mahanga, Kantapada and Niali blocks in violation of the State Govt’s lockdown order.
The sand miners were lifting sand secretly at night and transporting it in trucks & tractors to different parts of the district. Locals alleged that though they had brought the matter to the notice of police and revenue officials, no action has been taken. In some cases, even police, revenue officials & social activists were being attacked. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2020/apr/06/despite-lockdown-illegal-sand-mining-continues-unabated-2126375.html (06 April 2020)
June 2020 Illegal mining on Andhra-Odisha border Sand mining was rampant in Vamsadhara river at Andhra and Odisha border (AOB) areas. The river starts in Odisha and passes through Srikakulam district in the State. Sand was being excavated at Neradi and Singidi areas in Bhamini mandal in Srikakulam district. But sand miners were saying that they were excavating sand from Puritiguda area which was in Odisha and located exactly on the opposite side of Singidi in Andhra State.
Sand mining was allowed freely in the river in Odisha and the sand was being transported to different places in Odisha and Andhra also. Sand mining was not allowed by private persons in Andhra and here government alone can distribute the sand through payment of amount by way of online transaction.
But sand reaches located in Odisha were not having clear road access and difficult to transport it from the reaches. Sand miners were excavating sand in Andhra border areas and saying that it was excavated from Odisha areas. There was a huge demand for Srikakulam sand for construction works in Visakhapatnam city. Sand mafia gangs of Visakhapatnam were eyeing on these border areas in the wake of relaxation of lockdown restrictions. https://www.thehansindia.com/andhra-pradesh/srikakulam-illegal-sand-mining-rampant-on-andhra-and-odisha-border-625955 (03 June 2020)
Sand mafia causes Udala Rs 50k loss daily As the administration lowered its guard due to preoccupation with COVID, the sand mafia took it as an opportunity and become active in Udala of Mayurbhanj and Nilagiri tehsil of Balasore. As a result the Udala tehsil was losing Rs 50,000 daily. The sand mafia had hundred of trucks and was transporting sand from Bhimtali sand ghat, only two kilometres away from Udala tehsil office. The lease period of the sand ghat had expired, but sand was being extracted outside the lease area.
Villagers alleged that sand mining had caused collapse of river banks and Bhimtali river has been changing its course. Over the years, about 50 acres of land had vanished into the river, the villagers said. Sand was routinely transported in 70 trucks every day under the nose of the administration. The govt was losing lakhs of rupees towards revenue. Locals demanded a high level probe & action against the sand mafia. https://www.orissapost.com/sand-mafia-causes-udala-rs50k-loss-daily/ (12 June 2020)
July 2020 Illicit sand mining corroding Baitarani banks Illegal sand mining on Baitarani river banks in Bhandaripokhari block of Bhadrak district has grown over the years and so is the district administration’s alleged inaction which has been encouraging unhindered loot. Bairatarini river flows through Bhandaripokhari, Dhamnagar, and Chandabali blocks of Bhadrak district. Every year floods create havoc in these areas and locals allege that rampant sand mining on its banks adds woes to the nearby village panchayats.
Chittaranjan Nayak, a local says, “The illegal mining near our village has increased manifold over the years due to which possibility of flood is growing in the nearby villages. The district administration has turned blind eye. They are deliberately allowing the illicit transport of sand”.
Duryodhan Lenka who is aggrieved over the situation narrates that sand mining continues in an unbridled manner on a 30 km stretch of the river, under the very nose of the administration. “Due to the quarrying activities from Akhuapada of Bhadrak to Dehudi in Anandpur, Baitarani River has been changing its course time and again and creating floods every year,” he says.
“Illegal mining has resulted in an artificial river called Gengei in the region. If government doesn’t take immediate action then more than 8 panchayats will get marooned during the floods. We will be forced to agitate against the government if our problems are not solved soon,” Nayak added. https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/illicit-sand-mining-corroding-baitarani-banks-people-blame-govt-apathy-462530 (17 July 2020)
Aug. 2020 BJP seeks CBI probe into illegal sand mining BJP district unit president Kandra Soren and Zilla Parishad president Sujata Murmu said due to nexus of the previous tehsildar, illegal sand mining flourished in Badasahi, Betnoti, Rashgobindpur, Moroda, Chitrada, Sarasahkana and Bangiriposi areas in the district. No step was taken by the administration to check the illegal sand and morrum lifting though attention of the Collector was drawn to the illegal practice. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2020/aug/03/bjp-seeks-crime-branch-probe-into-illegal-sand-mining-in-odisha-2178425.html (03 Aug. 2020)
Mahanadi embankments eroding fast due to illegal sand mining Illegal sand mining has taken a toll on the embankments of Mahanadi river in the Jagatsinghpur district. Even as sand mafia have been operating with impunity allegedly in connivance with revenue officials, erosion of the river bed now poses a grave threat to several villages in Tirtol and Kujang blocks and those along the Taladanda canal.
Heavy machinery is used to lift sand from the river bed in the two blocks and transported to Paradip where they are. Madhusudan Behera, a resident of Arada village said the embankment of the river near Jhulababa math in Tirtol panchayat collapsed recently as a result of which several fruit-bearing trees were washed away. Similar is the situation in Tentulipada, Manijanga, Jadatira, Pipalmadhab, Bodhei and other panchayats of Tirtol.
The Taladanda canal, which has caved in 3-4 times since its construction, is on the verge of complete collapse. The 400 metre long, 250 metre wide embankment of Mahanadi river, just 700 metre from the canal, has caved in.
Use of machines have been causing a change in the natural topography of the region. Deep digging and lifting of sand has led to formation of ponds giving rise to the threat of the river changing its course during floods. This can prove disastrous for villages in the two blocks. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2020/aug/23/mahanadi-embankments-eroding-fast-due-to-illegal-sand-mining-2187158.html (23 Aug. 2020)
June 2019 Govt plans separate agency to regulate illegal sand miningOfficials in the state revenue and disaster management department said the directorate would put in place a robust monitoring mechanism using technology to prevent illegal lifting and theft of minor minerals. “Apart from monitoring the implementation of environment protection laws during the mining of such minerals, the directorate would identify potential minor mineral sources so that it can augment collection of mining revenue. The directorate would also ensure adequate and uninterrupted supply of minor minerals for all development projects and construction of buildings,” a senior official of the department said.
In the same month, the state government notified rules for Odisha Specified Minor Minerals for auction of specified minor minerals like laterite stones, marble, granite, quartz, sandstone and Gypsum that come under the purview of steel and mines department. The department would hold electronic auction of these minor minerals after estimating the quantities discovered in that area. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/odisha-plans-separate-agency-to-regulate-illegal-sand-mining/story-fjQzDCiRhX6fK7HYeBIDNJ.html (29 June 2019)
Aug. 2019 Separate directorate for minor minerals establishedThe state government set up a Directorate of Minor Minerals to prevent their illegal lifting, according to its notification released on Aug. 18. The gazette notification bearing the date of Aug. 13, 2019 said that the new directorate with all necessary technical capacity will look after the scientific and sustainable management of the resources.
Among its main functions, the notification said, the directorate will identify source of minor minerals in a scientific manner and prepare mining and environmental management plans as per the applicable laws.
The directorate will function under the administrative control of revenue and disaster management department in view of augmenting the revenue of the state from these resources and will administer the Odisha Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 2016.
The directorate will ensure prevention of illegal quarrying and lifting of minor minerals such as sand, ballasts, chips and gravel of ordinary stones, river shingles, pebbles and rock fines generated from stone crushers. There will be a director in the rank of additional secretary, either an IAS or an OAS cadre officer. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/odisha-establishes-separate-directorate-for-minor-minerals-119082001309_1.html (20 Aug. 2019)
Feb. 2020 New minor mineral policy soon The state government has initiated steps for formulating a new policy with best practices from different States.
Reports submitted by two official level teams constituted by the government to study policy and practices adopted in other States were discussed at a high-level meeting under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy in Lokaseva Bhawan on Feb. 01. The Chief Secretary directed the Revenue and Disaster Management departments to work out a definite policy proposal customising best practices in Odisha context.
A team led by Special Secretary Revenue and Disaster Management RN Palei and Additional Secretary Avaya Nayak visited Punjab and Rajasthan in Dec 2019. The objective of having a separate Directorate is to develop scientific and sustainable management of resources. Similarly, the team lead by Special Secretary of the department Sashadhar Nayak visited Telangana and Karnataka in Dec 2019.
The teams are reported to have collected detail practices about demand-supply management, auction process, excavation, supply chain, price capping, and end-use prevalent in those States. The Directorate, formed in August 2019, will identify source of minor minerals in a scientific manner and prepare mining and environmental management plans as per the applicable laws. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2020/feb/02/new-minor-mineral-policy-for-odisha-soon-2097857.html (2 Feb. 2020)
July 2020 Govt to scale up annual revenue collection The state government directed the revenue and disaster management department to identify and operationalize the new sariat sources (sand, morrum, stones) for filling the gap between ‘demand and supply’ of minor minerals and sets a target to scale up the annual revenue generation to Rs 1,000 crore. It was decided at a high level meeting chaired by Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy on July 10.
Reviewing the progress made so far, Tripathy said, “Enhancement of legally operational sources will have triple benefit of ensuring supply of material for construction sector, which is quite labour intensive, containing the theft of minor minerals and increasing the collection of revenue”.
Bishnupada Sethi, Principal Secretary Revenue and Disaster Management, appraised that, “As per earlier decisions of government, the Directorate of Minor Minerals have been made functional within a very short period of time. Within last couple of months 1,129 new sariat sources have been identified in different districts. With this, the total number of minor mineral sariats have increased to 4,965.”
Chief Secretary had directed to identify sand rich river beds on banks of the major rivers like Mahanadi, Baitarani, Bramhani, Rusikulya and Subarnarekha in cooperation with the Department of Water Resources, Forest & Environment and prepare scientific plans for sand mining. It was also decided to allow inter-state transportation of sands through competitive bidding process.
Tripathy further directed to strengthen the enforcement activities for checking the theft of minor minerals. The collectors and police superintendents were directed to utilise the services of Odisha Industrial Security Force (OISF) and sharpen the squad activities for containment of illegal lifting of the minerals. Tripathy has directed to deal very strongly against the illegal miners and transporters.
Director Minor Minerals Bubhuti Bhusan Das appraised that “Revenue to the tune of Rs 37.11 crore has been collected during the months of April and May 2020 from minor minerals. The process for preparation of mining plan, availing of environmental clearance and timely completion of bidding process for another 1,469 Sariats have been brought to an advanced stage”. http://www.businessworld.in/article/Odisha-to-scale-up-annual-revenue-collection-from-minor-mineral-to-Rs-1-000-crore/11-07-2020-296236/ (11 July 2020)
Oct. 2020 1219 sand mines to go under hammerThe state government has planned to auction 1,219 sand mines in a bid to enhance revenue collection which has dwindled due to Covid-19. The total number of sand sariat sources has gone up to 1,859 with the addition of 450 new sources. Out of this, 640 sources have been auctioned for the current year.
Holding a high-level review meeting, Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy on Oct 8 directed the officials concerned to expedite the process for auction of the remaining sources of sand. The Revenue department was asked to monitor auctioning of the sand sources regularly and keep up-grading the number of sources.
Tripathy directed the Revenue and Disaster Management department (DM) to make all sariat sources operational within a definite time frame for bridging the gap between ‘demand and supply’ of sand. Tripathy also directed the officials to finalise development of i4-MS software for real-time monitoring of sand excavation & transportation & fix the timeline for its application.
Further, the Chief Secretary directed them to make district-wise assessment of shortage or surplus of sand keeping in view the requirements in govt and private sectors. It was decided to allow inter-state transportation of surplus sands through competitive bidding process. Tripathy further directed the officials concerned to strengthen enforcement activities for checking illegal lifting and theft of sand. https://www.orissapost.com/1219-odisha-sand-mines-to-go-under-hammer/ (08 Oct. 2020)
124% revenue growth in sand miningOdisha has recorded a 124% increase in revenue from sand mining in 2019-20 in comparison to 2018-19. “The total revenue earned from sand in 2019-20 increased to Rs 680 crore against Rs 303 crore in 2018-19, a growth of 124%,” informed Director Minor Minerals Bibhuti Bhusan Das at a State-level review chaired by Chief Secretary Asit Tripathy. Following instructions of the Chief Secretary, an extensive survey was undertaken by Revenue officers at the field for identification of new sand sources in 2020-21.
Expeditious implementation of construction projects which has resulted in demand for sand led to the identification of 450 new sand sariat sources in different parts of the State taking the total sources to 1859. Out of this 640 sources have been auctioned for the current year. “The annual availability of sand for mining has increased to 11.24 million cubic meter (MCM). Out of this, the sariats with annual yielding capacity of 6.57 MCM have been operationalized,” said Principal Secretary Revenue & DM Bishnupada Sethi. The Chief Secretary directed departmental officials to expedite the process for auction of the balance sources. https://ommcomnews.com/odisha-news/odisha-records-124-revenue-growth-in-sand-mining (8 Oct. 2020)
Oct. 2020 NGT rebukes Kendrapara Collector and SPRestraining sand mining along Brahmani river bed in Kendrapara district without environment clearance, the National Green Tribunal directed the Chief Secretary to take appropriate action against Kendrapara Collector and SP for filing incorrect affidavit before it.
The petitioners had alleged that several persons were illegally mining sand on Brahmani river bed at Charenarendrapur, Alva, Nimapur and Srirampur by violating the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and orders of the Supreme Court. They also stated that the illegal mining was disturbing the natural sand dunes and threatening the river embankment. http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2019/oct/19/illegal-sand-mining-ngt-wants-action-against-collector-and-sp-2049946.html (19 Oct. 2019)
June 2020 NGT forms panel to probe into sand mining in Subarnarekha The sand mining covering over 26 acre was resulting in depletion of water level, change in the course of the river and obstruction of the natural flow by wooden bridges and approach road within the river. Besides, villagers of Panchughanta were being exposed to severe air pollution due to transportation of excavated sand in open trucks through the village.
The NGT’s Principal Bench said, “Having regard to the seriousness of the allegations, we deem it essential to constitute a committee comprising District Magistrate, Balasore, the SEIAA, Odisha SPCB and Regional Office of the MoEF&CC, who shall jointly inspect the area in question, verify on the factual aspects set out by the applicant in the application.” The tribunal directed for inspection of the site within 15 days and listed the case for further hearing on July 30, 2020. https://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bhubaneswar/2020/jun/11/ngt-forms-panel-to-probe-into-sand-mining-in-subarnarekha-2154978.html (11 June 2020)
Aug. 2020 NGT bans mining in Subarnarekha river The NGT has ordered for a halt to sand mining in Subarnarekha river under Jaleswar tehsil in Balasore district after a joint inspection committee formed by it confirmed illegalities and violation of pollution norms by the leaseholders. The Tribunal issued the ban order on July 28 after the report submitted by the committee indicated that there was excess mining beyond the permissible limit and sand was extracted beyond the mining lease area.
In its report, the committee has suggested prohibition of use of machineries by leaseholders and enforcement of movement period from 8 am to 4 pm with speed limit of 20 km/ hour of transport vehicles on village roads along with water spraying on the roads. The NGT has given the leaseholders the liberty to file comments/ objections within two weeks & ordered for listing of the matter on Sept 15. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2020/aug/01/ngt-bans-sand-mining-in-subarnareka-river-2177679.html (01 Aug. 2020)
May 2019 Journalist attacked in BalasorePratap Patra a journalist of an Odisha daily in coastal Balasore district was grievously injured after illegal sand miners allegedly attacked him on May 29, 2019 night while he was returning home from office. The journalist told the police that he had reported about the sand mafia in Balasore a few days ago which angered some people. Police said the journalist received threats over last few days. The journalist later told the local press that he knew the attackers and handed over a list of names to the police.
The NGT in Jan 2019 had passed an order asking the Balasore district administration to stop illegal sand mining near the Subarnarekha river. Due to heavy demand of sand Odisha and neighboring states, the mafia scooped away sand causing severe damage to embankments & roads. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/odisha-journalist-allegedly-attacked-by-sand-mining-mafia-in-balasore/story-9qfEVK6JnLKtjxJaAIE8KJ.html (31 May 2019)
Jan. 2020 Young anti-sand mining activist killed Tension flared up in Rashgovindpur after the body of 32-year-old Mantu Tarei of Susumari village, who had been opposing illegal sand mining, was found on the bed of Jambhira river on Jan 9, 2020 morning. The deceased was a social activist & spearheading protests against illegal sand mining on Jambhira river bed.
Brother Pintu Tarei alleged that Mantu was murdered by sand mafia. “My brother had gone to the river bed on Jan. 8 night to stop the smugglers who were illegally lifting sand. The mafia crushed him to death under a JCB machine as his body bore several grievous injuries,” he alleged. Locals said that due to movement of heavy sand loading vehicles, the village road had been damaged to such an extent that it was no more usable. Schoolchildren & emergency vehicles faced a lot of difficulties to commute. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2020/jan/10/young-anti-sand-mining-activist-found-dead-in-odishas-rashgovindpur-2087545.html (10 Jan. 2020)
Feb. 2020 RTI activist found dead in Kendrapada A 40-year-old RTI activist was found dead in Kendrapada early on Feb 1, 2020. Police suspect that Ranjan Kumar Das, convener of the district unit of Odisha Suchana Adhikar Abhijan, was killed by some miscreants on Jan. 31 night. His body was found on a road in Berua village under Marsaghai police station in Kendrapara. It bore several injury marks. Many social workers and RTI activists too suspect that he might have been killed as he had raised his voice against illegal sand quarrying, brick kiln owners and some allegedly venal NGOs and officials in the district and its nearby areas. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhubaneswar/rti-activist-who-protested-against-illegal-sand-mining-found-dead-in-kendrapada/articleshow/73852437.cms (02 Feb. 2020)
Elderly woman attacked for protesting against illegal sand mining The sand mafia did not spare a 70-year-old woman Sakhi Behera of Jaisankhpur village within Kujang police limits on Feb 21, 2020. The woman had been protesting illegal lifting of sand and was attacked by the mafia. She sustained critical injuries & was admitted to Hospital. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2020/feb/23/mahanadi-river-bed-looted-by-sand-mafia-administration-silent-2107264.html (23 Feb. 2020)
April 2020 Activist attacked for raising complaint On April 1, 2020 a social activist Sanjay Routray sustained serious injuries after being attacked by a mafia for raising voice against illegal sand lifting from the bank of Devi river at Andeisahi under Kantapada tehsil. Earlier, Sanjay had lodged a complaint with the Tehsildar, Collector, Chief Secretary & Chief Minister.
Death In another incident, a 32-year-old mechanic died after a sand-laden tractor tyre burst at his garage near Kanpur police station on April 3 night. Mechanic Laxmidhar Sahoo was checking tyre pressure when the accident took place. People of these blocks have urged the district administration to stop the illegal sand lifting and brick kiln operations immediately. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2020/apr/06/despite-lockdown-illegal-sand-mining-continues-unabated-2126375.html (06 April 2020)
Aug. 2020 8 sand-laden vehicles set on fire Some unidentified miscreants allegedly set eight sand laden vehicles on fire at Kolidaspur under the Hinjili police limits in Aska on Aug 22. The locals have repeatedly complained to the administration about the illegal sand mining, but the administration did not respond.
A section of the irate locals set a tractor, a JCB and a tipper on fire which were being used for illegal sand mining in river bed near the village. Illegal sand mining from riverbeds in several areas continues in Alpur, Sikiri, Kolidaspur areas. Villagers have alleged that the riverbed will be damaged due to the illegal sand mining. https://kalingatv.com/state/8-sand-laden-vehicles-set-on-fire-in-odisha/ (22 Aug. 2020)
Illegal sand mining in Hinjili This video report in Odia covers the incident. The villagers interviewed said that illegal mining was happening with the support of officials. The villagers were fearing flood threat, saying that the river was changing its course due to large scale illicit mining activities. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W12KcWR-B3s (24 Aug. 2020)
Locals protest against investigation There was visible unrest in Kolidaspur village as locals staged a demonstration in front of Hinjili police station of Ganjam district. The police had taken into custody six people for interrogation and the locals were protesting against the same. The five individuals are being interrogated on charges of torching vehicles involved in illegal sand mining from Rushikulya river bed.
The agitated villagers pelted stones at the police. The police then resorted to mild lathi-charge. Aska SDPO and Hinjili IIC were unavailable for comment.
Illegal sand mining has been rampant from Rushikulya river bed at Kolidaspur, Aalpur and Sikiri area in the last couple of days. Villagers had repeatedly reported about the illegal sand mining to the administration seeking action. https://ommcomnews.com/odisha-news/odisha-locals-resort-to-demonstration-over-illegal-sand-mining-investigation (24 Aug. 2020)
Sand mining triggers unrest in Hinjili Tension prevailed at Kolidaspur village after police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse locals who were staging a demonstration in front of Hinjili police station on Aug 23.
The agitators had gheraoed the police station protesting the detention of 10 villagers who were picked by cops in connection with the torching of vehicles engaged in sand mining on Aug 22. https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/sand-mining-triggers-unrest-in-hinjili-police-resort-to-lathi-charge-471139 (23 Aug. 2020)
Villagers lathi-charged over illegal sand mining protest Villagers did not allow senior officers who had rushed to the spot to enter the police station and also resorted to stone pelting. In order to disperse the crowd, police resorted to lathi-charge as a result of which several of the protesters were injured. The police also detained eight other villagers. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2020/aug/24/odisha-villagers-lathi-charged-over-illegal-sand-mining-protest-2187495.html (24 Aug. 2020)
2 Police personnel injured in stone-pelting by mob Two Odisha Police personnel sustained injuries after a mob pelted a police station in Ganjam district with stones on Aug. 23 demanding the release of five persons arrested for allegedly torching sand mining vehicles and assaulting the drivers, police said. https://www.outlookindia.com/newsscroll/2-odisha-police-personnel-injured-in-stonepelting-by-mob-8-arrested/1921449 (23 Aug. 2020)
https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=746520086126926 (26 Aug. 2020)
Illegal sand mining rampant The unrest over illegal sand mining, subsequent public agitation and police lathi-charge on protestors in Hinjili speaks volumes about the rampant misuse of natural resources in Odisha.
Not only in Ganjam, illegal sand mining is disconcertingly prevalent in other parts of the State. It is alleged that sand is being lifted from the approved areas within different quarries in Jaleswar Tehsil. Such activity is resulting in the change of course of the affected-river, thereby increasing threat to villages close to the embankments.
“Sand was being lifted from the area round the clock. The situation may become worse as there has been a change in the course of the river,” said Hakim Dalai, a local resident.
In a related development, Sanatan Sahu, the inspector-in-charge of Bhandaripokhari Police Station was transferred after a purported audio clip of his conversation while striking a deal for sand mining in Baitarani river went viral on social media. https://odishatv.in/odisha-news/illegal-sand-mining-rampant-in-odisha-471593 (24 Aug. 2020)
Summary: The rivers and people in Odisha has been suffering greatly from adverse impact of excessive riverbed mining. However the state government has been ineffective in governing sand mining. The developments during the past one year shows that the state is going to face the mining menace like other states.
So far the minor minerals known as sariat sources were auctioned under Department of Steel and Geology. In August 2019, it has set up Directorate of Minor Minerals as a separate agency to deal with the issue putting the Revenue and Disaster Management Department at the helm of affairs. The state still lacks a fully functioning department to govern the riverbed minerals excavation in sustainable manner. There is no separate website disclosing the basic and relevant information regarding riverbed mining e.g. total number and operational mining leases, total area of river stretches under quarrying operations like in the case of major minerals under Department of Steel and Geology.
The government has not even set up DEIAA and SEIAA essential for sand mining governance. Though, the Revenue and Disaster Management Department – accepting that unscientific and illegal mining operation lead to change in river courses, damages to embankments – has on August 24, 2019 issued guidelines to streamline the process of sand quarrying and preventing illegal mining; however it has no place and space for riverine communities who are at the receiving end of illegal mining activities.
The state government in Feb 2020 has planned a new policy replacing Odisha Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 2016. To study policy and practices adopted in other States senior officials from Revenue and Disaster Management have paid visits to Rajasthan, Punjab, Telangana, Karnataka in Dec 2019.
These states have been have completely failed to control illegal mining. The Rajasthan and Punjab are facing mining bans for failing to stand upto judicial scrutiny. The Telangana state is under NGT watch for large scale unsustainable mining in rivers including Godavari and the CPCB has termed the policy as unscientific. The situation in Karnataka is no different.
The main objective of the new policy of Odisha is to allow more mining operations in order to generate more revenues. The Odisha govt in July 2020 has directed the Revenue and DM Department to scale up the annual revenue generation to Rs 1,000 crore for 2020-2021 and make other sariat sources operational in a fixed time frame.
The state has recorded a 124% increase in revenue from sand mining in 2019-20 in comparison to last fiscal. The total revenue earned from sand in 2019-20 increased to Rs 680 cr against the total revenue of Rs 303 cr in 2018-19.
The annual availability of sand for mining in the state has increased to 11.2 MCM and out of this, the sariats with annual yielding capacity of 6.57 MCM have been operationalized so far. In April-May 2020, the initial months of lockdown, the department identified 1,129 new sariat sources & the government collected revenue of Rs 37.11 crore.
In October 2020, the state government has planned to auction 1,219 sand mines to make up for revenue depletion on account of Covid-19 pandemic. With the addition of 450 new sources, the total number of sand sariat sources in the state are 1,859. Out of this, 640 sources have been auctioned for 2020-21.
Though the state government has formed District Minerals Foundation (DMF) however its website shows only Rs 33.05 crore fund collection from excavation of minor minerals. The Ministry of Mines data shows the figure to be only Rs 5.72 cr by July 2020.
This is against 124% rise in revenue collection in past one year. Additionally, there is no information on number of projects started and budget allocated from DMF in sand mining affected districts.
Similarly the district survey reports (DSR) as directed in July 2018 have not been completed in several districts. So far only the final copies of DSRs for Malkagiri, Sundergarh and draft copies for Kalahandi are available online.
On monitoring too, Odisha seems relying mainly on technology and police patrolling. The reports reveal nexus between govt officials and sand miners. The audio clip of a police official fixing money deal with miners for illegal mining in Baitarani river underlines the state of affairs.
In Nov 2019, the state govt created Minor Minerals Enforcement Cells in 144 minor minerals rich tehsils. However the growing illegal mining cases indicates they have failed to make any difference so far.
After several hearings, the NGT found that the Balasore district administration has totally failed to rein in illegal mining in Subarnarekha river leaving no choice before the court but to ban the mining activities in Jaleswar tehsil in August 2020.
Meanwhile, the Mahanadi, Baitarani, Bramhani, Rusikulya, Subarnarekha, Devi, Daya, Prachi, Ib, Chitrotpala, Luna, Bhimtali rivers and people living along these rivers in respective blocks of Balasore, Jagatsinghpur, Baleshwar, Kendrapara, Ganjam, Malkagiri, Jajpur, Keonjhar, Sundergarh, Sambhalpur districts are bearing the burning of illegal mining activities.
Against the norm, the use of heavy machines and blocking of river channels have also been frequently reported. The plight of Vamasadhara river sharing border with Andhra Pradesh is equally worse.
In majority of the incidents, the villagers have been mentioning severe impacts on river geology and weakening of embankments making the adjoining areas vulnerable to flood devastation.
The report of illegal mining leading to formation of an artificial river called Gengei in the Bhadrak district is alarming. Similarly the illegal mining leading to formation of craters in Subarnarekha riverbed in Balasore thus affecting the water flows is equally disturbing.
The apathy of administration has pushed the affected villagers to wall and they have no option left but to protest with all their might. Since May 2019, two activists have been murdered for raising voice against illegal mining and one person lost his life in illegal sand mining accident. Apart from this, a reporter and an elderly women has been attacked for objecting to illegal sand mining in rivers.
Available reports suggest that the state of Odisha is on the way to join the league of sand mining ravaged states in India. Unless it embarks on a course correction and overhaul sand mining governance, the future of Odisha’s rivers and people seem bleak.
Bhim Singh Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please also see SANDRP annual overview for the year 2019-20 for following states: