Sand Mining

Riverbed mining 2020: East & North East India

This compilation covers the Riverbed mining issue in remaining states of East and North East India in the past eighteen months. There were not enough media reports on the issue of sand mining in remaining states of East and North East India. Hence we have prepared the single compilation covering these states. We have also put some informative reports from previous years which we had not compiled earlier to highlight the problems of illegal mining.

EAST INDIA

Jharkhand Villagers hold official captive On Oct. 21, a Circle Official (CO) was held hostage in Bargi Dand village of Gumla district. The official had gone to village to take action against illegal mining from Sankh river which form boundary between Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand there. When he seized a tractor, few women from the village protested the move alleging him of being partial in action. They said that the CO was not taking against the rich and powerful and only against the poor and powerless. They also said that the sand was being used within the village and not exported or commercially exploited. The official was held hostage for full day and was later released on condition of withdrawing the case.  https://www.jagran.com/jharkhand/gumla-lead-raidih-co-went-hostage-to-illegal-sand-mining-by-women-20924916.html  (21 Oct. 2020)

Rampant mining in Khokha Sone river Incidents of illegal sand mining in Khokha Sone river under Kharaundhi region of Garhwa district are on the rise. The administration had blocked the roads leading to river bank by digging trenches with JCBs, the miners have created new paths bypassing the blockage. The report says hundreds of tractors transport rivers sand daily. The miners have created two stock piles; one closer to border in Uttar Pradesh from where it is transported in UP and other close to Jharkhand border. Khokha Sone is a tributary of North Koel river which then joins the Sone river, a tributary of Ganga. https://www.jagran.com/jharkhand/ranchi-illigal-mining-of-sand-in-gadhwa-20915985.html  (20 Oct. 2020)

Road cut off to prevent illegal mining In the night of Oct. 19, the forest officials have cut off a road along Kanhar river. Kanhar River near Samo Balu ghat are in Parasapani Kala village of Dhurki forest area. https://www.bhaskar.com/local/jharkhand/ranchi/dhurki/news/road-cut-to-stop-illegal-sand-mining-127829224.html  (20 Oct. 2020)

Police personnel involved in illegal mining On Oct. 14, Gamhariya villagers raised objection against a police man involved in illegal mining from Sapda river under Adityapur station in Seraikela district. The police man was not posted in Adityapur station and was allowing mining from the river by misusing his post. When villagers raised objection, he threatened them. Later the senior officials were informed about the issue and the policeman was summoned. An inquiry has been ordered into the matter. https://www.jagran.com/jharkhand/seraikela-villagers-surround-the-havildar-doing-sand-mining-20878724.html  (14 Oct. 2020)

Illegal sand miners pelt stones at cops Bermo sub-divisional officer Nitish Kumar Singh and his team had a close save on June 4 night as miscreants engaged in illegal sand mining on the banks of Damodar river pelted stones in a bid to thwart a surprise raid. Singh and other officials had visited the river bank after a tip-off on illegal sand mining and its transportation. Though the miners escaped, eight tractors loaded with sand were seized from near Khetko village.

An FIR was filed at Petarwar police station against seven named and 20 unidentified persons while three were detained for questioning. Though four of the units are licensed while the fifth has applied for one, the team found they are running without proper documentations of stocked stone chips and boulders. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ranchi/illegal-sand-miners-pelt-stones-at-cops-in-bermo/articleshow/76224716.cms  (06 June 2020)

14 villages injured in mining dispute 14 people were injured in a bloody clash between the two sides over the lifting of sand from the Koyal river in Pratappur on May 25 evening. Four people suffered bullet injuries in the clash. The incident happened under Sadar police in Garhwa district. The village headman was given permission to allow sand mining from Koel river only for local requirement. But the he started allowing illegal mining which was objected to by villagers and finally led to violent clash.

The injured villagers undergoing treatment in a hospital. (Hindustan Hindi)

In the same district 4 Pipri villagers were killed over illegal mining from Banki river on May 19, 2017. The villagers were opposing the sand lifting. Later there was a violent clash between the contractor and the villagers. https://www.livehindustan.com/jharkhand/story-firing-in-jharkhand-garhwa-district-over-the-issue-sand-14-people-injured-3238014.html (25 May 2020)

No heed to NGT ban Paying no heed to the ban imposed by NGT over sand mining, mafias are continuing with their illegal activities on the banks of Subarnarekha in Jamshedpur. According to eyewitness the sand mafias are driving the tractor-trolleys and trucks inside the river, as the water level is very low and excavating the sand.

Trucks are being filled in the Seraikela area and then being sold at high rates. The situation is quite similar in the Baharagora area. The authorities concerned are not serious about imposing the ban and do not carry out raids to stop the illegal mining. Many believe that the officials are hand in glove with the mafias.

Sand mining ban has been imposed in state from June 10 to Oct. 15. The ban has led to severe shortage of sand in the Steel City. Most of the construction work in the city has come to a halt as the sand price have shot up. A builder complained that sand is not available and we have to purchase it from black market. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jamshedpur/jamshedpur-sand-mining-rampant-paying-no-heed-to-green-bench-ban/articleshow/70278923.cms  (18 July 2019)

Chhattisgarh Scribe writing against sand mafia thrashed Kamal Shukla, the editor of Bhoomkaal a regional newspaper who had led a campaign for a journalist protection law was dragged down a street, beaten and slashed with a sharp weapon barely 100 metres from Kanker police station, in Bastar division, on Sept. 26 morning. Bleeding from the head, 53-year-old Kamal Shukla was rescued by other journalists and taken to hospital.

Shukla had himself gone to cover an assault on a young journalist who has been filing RTIs on illegal sand mining and was beaten up and dragged to the police station by a group of people. Police issued a statement that it was a “brawl between two groups of journalists” and an FIR was lodged under the IPC for voluntarily causing hurt, criminal intimidation and obscene acts. “I have been writing against the sand mafia and raising my voice against the district administration and collector. Journalists of Kanker plan to go on a ‘jail bharo aandolan’ on October 2. This attack was meant to foil our campaign,” Shukla alleged.  https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/scribe-writing-against-sand-mafia-thrashed/articleshow/78342426.cms   (27 Sept. 2020)

Sand mafia loots Shivnath River The sand mafia has been openly looting Shivnath river of sand and causing exchequer loss of crores of rupees. The 345 km Shivnath is the longest tributary of Mahanadi river. It originates in the Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra and joins the Mahanadi River near the small town Shivrinarayan in Chhattisgarh.

Open loot of sand from Shivnath River is being committed from Ambagarh Chowki to Rajnandgaon at various places like Ratapaayli, Ghorda, Medha, Sukhri, Barsantola, Chiladabri, Salekasa etc. The looted sand is being transported daily in hundreds of trucks to various places, including Mumbai.

When the BJP was ruling the state then the Congress leaders used to launch agitation against illegal sand mining, but now the same Congress leaders have joined hands with the sand miners. CM Bhupesh Baghel is also holding Mining portfolio. https://www.oneindia.com/india/chhattisgarh-sand-mafia-loots-shivnath-river-2913047.html (3 July 2019)

Govt recants sand mining rights from panchayats Citing misuse and illegal mining cases, the state government in Feb. 2019 barred the panchayats from controlling the extraction and trading of sand – a right that was bestowed to the village government under the three-tier Panchayati Raj Act.

The state government had formulated norms under the Act, which came into effect on April 1, 2006, giving Gram Panchayats, Janpad Panchayats and Muncipal Corporations the right to extract and trade in sand. The royalty rate fixed was Rs 20 per cubic meter of sand. Under the provision, the royalty amount was directly received from the miners or contractors by the local panchayat and municipal corporations.

From June 10, 2008, 25 per cent of the revenue received from minor minerals was re-allocated to state government and remaining 75 per cent was re-distributed to the Panchayat or Municipal Corporation under whose jurisdiction the mining activity was carried out.

“Regular complaints of illegal mining and misuse of the provisions were coming to the fore and hence the state government had taken strict measure,” CM Bhupesh Baghel said. The panchayats will be getting 25 per cent more royalty, he added. The new royalty will be calculated after taking out the mean of the royalty earned by a given panchayat in the last five years, and this amount will be added to the 25 per cent hike recently announced. The rate of royalty will be hiked for transporting the minor mineral to other states. https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/chhattisgarh-recants-sand-mining-rights-from-panchayats-cites-misuse-119022000875_1.html  (20 Feb. 2019)

Chhattisgarh-Odisha Sand mafia have field day on Ong riverbed Ong river, a tributary of the Mahanadi, flowing through Sambalpuri village bordering Odisha and Chhattisgarh has been facing rampant illegal sand mining, being carried out by the sand mafia from Chhattisgarh 24X7 and the authorities on Odisha side of the border are looking the other way resulting in huge loss to the State exchequer.

Excavators and heavy commercial vehicles such as trucks are engaged in illegal sand mining which is being transported to Chhattisgarh. They are gradually extending the area of sand mining and proper motorable road has been laid on the riverbed to ensure smooth movement of the heavy vehicles carrying sand. Even the 4 km forest stretch has been cleared for construction of road and sand is being transported to Saraipali in Chhattisgarh.

Heavy commercial vehicles are engaged in illegal sand mining which is being transported to Chhattisgarh. Express

While some villagers allege that the local administration is hand in glove with the sand mafia, some others claim that the local authorities refuse to visit the spot out of fear for their lives. The illegal sand mining is being carried out in Chardapali, Sambalpuri, Luhurakot and Sareikela and off late some local hoodlums have joined hands to take part in the loot.

Allegations of sand mafia misbehaving with womenfolk of villages going to river have also been levelled resulting in escalation of tension in the area. Locals, who dared to raise their voice against illegal sand mining, are threatened with dire consequences. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2018/mar/23/chhattisgarh-sand-mafia-have-field-day-on-ong-riverbed-1791289.html  (23 March 2018)

West Bengal 10 year old drowns in illegal sand mining pit A 10-year-old boy drowned after slipping into a pit on Leesh river bed in Jalpaiguri, suspected to have been dug for illegal sand mining. The boy, Eyas Oraon, a resident of a tea garden in Jalpaiguri, tripped and fell into the 15 feet by 30 feet trench while playing with friends on an islet of the river July 8, 2019 afternoon, the sources at Malbazar police station said.

The pit was illegally dug to extract sand and rocks. Officials, however, declined to comment on the incident, maintaining that steps were being taken to stem illegal sand mining. https://www.ndtv.com/cities/jalpaiguri-west-bengal-10-year-old-boy-drowns-in-illegal-sand-mining-pit-in-west-bengal-says-report-2066016  (08 July 2019)

8 dead in Birbhum after gangs battle over sand beds Two rival gangs with alleged links to ruling Trinamool Congress clashed in Birbhum district with bombs and guns on April 21, 2017 killing at least eight people. Police said the toll might spike as villagers reported more bodies lying in the fields. Locals said the Darbarpur village – about 180 km to the North-West of Kolkata – turned into a battlefield for hours over control of sand beds, wounding several women and children.

Clashes over control of dry river beds – which form the bedrock of a thriving illegal sand-mining industry – are not uncommon in these parts of Bengal but the scale of Friday’s (April 21, 2017) violence stunned the administration. According to locals, the victims could not be identified as most of the villagers fled after the clash that started in the morning and continued till late afternoon.  https://www.hindustantimes.com/kolkata/8-dead-in-bengal-s-birbhum-after-gangs-with-alleged-tmc-links-battle-with-bombs-guns-over-sand-beds/story-gEDPnBSFNkr3xFDlp0F0dM.html  (21 April 2017)

Green hopes run dry as rampant mining goes uncheckedRampant mining of sand has threatened the Patal-Bari — a heritage building on the banks of the Hooghly at Chandennagore. Besides this, several other residential buildings in the town – including the office of the Red Cross Society – have also begun developing cracks,” says Biswajit Mukherjee, a former chief environment law officer of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board.

Rampant sand mining and excavation of boulders from river beds are threatening the ecology of several rivers in West Bengal, so much so that even CM Mamata Banerjee recently asked the authorities to monitor their activities. “All the three major river basins of the state – the Bhagirathi-Hooghly basin, Damodar basin and Teesta basin – are being threatened by this illegal industry. The authorities, including police personnel, know what’s happening but do little to stop it,” said an irrigation department official.

The real estate boom in West Bengal and nearby states is aggravating the problem. However, cracking down on such illegal units would cause considerable inconvenience to officials as well as residents – not only would this mean less flow of cash to political parties, the common man would also be hit by the consequent rise in the cost of construction & raw material.

As the operation is entirely illegal, authorities have no idea about its quantum. But estimates suggest that there are at least 500 quarries in Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar and Cooch Behar districts alone. Sand mining not only erodes river banks but also degrades the river’s ecosystem, affecting fish and dolphins. Besides this, depletion of sand in the streambed deepens rivers and estuaries and enlarges river mouths and coastal inlets – leading to the intrusion of saline water from the sea,” says BC Barman, deputy director (hydraulics) at the River Research Institute in Nadia.

Many rivers in northern West Bengal have turned out to be rich sources of boulders, sand and stone chips for illegal miners – who excavate and transport the raw material to places within the state as well as Bihar and Bangladesh. According to Upendra Kumar Dhruv, assistant commissioner of the Siliguri custom division, 350 to 400 trucks filled with boulders cross over to Bangladesh every day through the Chengrabanda and Fulbari borders. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/green-hopes-run-dry-as-rampant-mining-goes-unchecked-in-bengal/story-JrLcS1qhF2DiCLwKcSZjhL.html  (11 July 2016)

NORTH EAST

Manipur Ban on sand mining in rivers The State High Court, as an interim measure, imposed a total ban on unauthorized sand mining, stone quarrying and other polluting activities near all rivers of the state. The only exceptions will be in cases where a licence or lease is granted prior to such activities.

A division bench of chief justice Ramalingam Sudhakar and justice Kh Nobin Singh passed the interim order on July 2, 2019 following a PIL by the Thoubal River Conservation Committee filed earlier in the year. The organization had, in its petition, said the state government and concerned authorities had taken no action to stop the deterioration of Thoubal river – caused by mining of sand and stone from the riverbed.

In a letter addressed to the chief justice, on the basis of which the high court had issued the ban suo motu, the organization had said the Thoubal river is the lifeline of several villages but its waters had turned muddy and turbid because of polluting activities. After hearing all parties, the high court expanded the scope of the PIL to cover all rivers of the state. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/imphal/manipur-hc-bans-sand-mining-in-riverbeds/articleshow/70068789.cms   (4 July 2019)

Quarry workers demand alternative site, threaten agitation Reacting to the Manipur High Court’s judgment banning the unauthorised mining of sand & stone, quarry workers have threatened to take up agitation if the state govt does not allot an alternative site to them.

Ningthoujam Momon, president of Self Employed Labour of Sand & Stone Marketing Association said that ban on quarry of stone & sand mining in the rivers has made life very hard for the workers as they are left with no source of income. https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/manipur/manipur-quarry-workers-demand-alternative-site-for-mining-threaten-agitation-5840644/ (21 July 2019)

Govt to issue permits for sand and stone mining An emergency meeting chaired by CM N. Biren Singh was held on July 31, 2019 to discuss issues following a total ban imposed by the High Court on unauthorized mining of sand and stone in all the rivers. Left with no alternative, quarry workers and transporters banned the supplies of sand and stones for all government and private construction, besides the import of sand from outside the state. The quarry workers and transporters also imposed a 14-hour state wide bandh. The aggrieved workers and transporters have been demanding alternative sites to continue with their mining activities.

The Manipur Government has taken up steps to issue legal mining permits for sand and stone mining. Dr. K. Suhel Akhtar, additional chief secretary, Forest and Environment, said applicants shall submit their application for mining plan (prepared by qualified or registered mine planner) for private patta lands for an area less than 5 hectare to the directorate of trade, commerce and industries. He said that proposals which are found feasible shall be forwarded to Directorate of Environment for environmental clearance by the state-level expert committee. Based on the clearance, the directorate of trade and commerce will issue the permits.

As far as waterways are concerned, he said, till the potential quarry sites are identified by the Water Resource Department and a tender is floated for the same, the Public Works Department will be provided temporary permits for 2 months for certain quarry sites in consultation with the Water Resources Dept on submission of their mining plans. Further, machinery shall be prohibited in such quarries. Under no such circumstances, areas in the river channel which has been degraded will be permitted for quarrying, the additional chief secretary added. The CM instructed deputy commissioners to immediately inform the District Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) to take assistance from the Water Resources Dept. https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/manipur/manipur-government-to-issue-permits-for-mining-sand-stone-5867489/ (31 July 2019)  

Activists intercept trucks transporting river minerals Activists of Thoubal River Conservation Committee on Dec. 29, 2018 morning intercepted nine trucks transporting sand and stones scooped from the riverbed in Thoubal district and forced the drivers to dump the same on the premises of a youth club. The activists have been urging passengers to halt and see how polluted the river water has become. They said the nine trucks were transporting sand and stones ignoring the campaign to save the dying river.

S. Binoy, an activist, said the Thoubal river meanders through several Assembly segments in Manipur. The sand mafia is so powerful that even elected representatives and govt officials are not able to take any action against them. “In the past people used to scoop sand and pebbles using spades and baskets. However, a few years ago, they started using heavy machinery. Some people also are bringing muddy sand from nearby areas to wash in the river,” said Mr. Binoy.

People of Thoubal have been urging the BJP-led govt to ban the scooping of sand and stones from the riverbed. A resident, Biren Akoijam, said: “For generations people have been dependent on the Thoubal river for drinking and domestic requirements. But now the river water has become polluted and muddy and people can no longer use it.” The govt has assured several times that the illegal scooping of sand from the river will be stopped but no concrete steps have been taken so far. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/activists-intercept-nine-trucks-transporting-river-sand-stones/article25861672.ece    (29 Dec. 2018)

Sikkim Protecting rivers and shy otters India has three otter species and they are becoming increasingly rare outside protected areas (PA), especially in the Himalayan region. Human-caused disturbance such as the construction of hydropower projects, sand mining and boulder collection harm the riverine habitats of otters that extend beyond PAs. According to wildlife biologists, connectivity between aquatic habitats outside PAs and involving communities in conservation are urgently needed.

“We thought otters were cats who came from the jungle and ate fish. We did not know much about otters,” recalls K. B. Rai, a homestay owner in East Sikkim. Rai is a resident of Rolep village by the Rangpo chu, a tributary of the Teesta, a major river system of the eastern Himalayas. He says he now knows more about the playful mammals, after he pitched in, in a camera trapping exercise to gather data about the presence and distribution of otters in the state, and saw them up close on the screen.

“If we have otters around our rivers, it means they are healthy,” said Rai, one of the local community members who has been helping Sunita Khatiwara, project officer, Sikkim government’s Forest and Environment Department, to monitor the cameras and share information on the presence of the semi-aquatic carnivores. The monitoring is part of the ongoing department funded 2019-2020 otter survey on the tributaries of river Teesta and Rangit. https://india.mongabay.com/2020/07/otters-beyond-protected-areas-in-the-himalayas/  (31 July 2020)

Arunachal Pradesh Illegal mining threatens habitat of black-necked Tibetan cranes Persistent illegal sand and gravel mining in Tawang, threatens one of the two known Indian winter habitats of black-necked cranes that fly in from Tibet at the end of every year. Local activists awaiting the return of the cranes say that district authorities are refusing to take responsibility for the mining, which continues unabated, threatening the habitat of the bird classified as “vulnerable” in the list of endangered species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The cranes, which are known to nest in freshwater wetlands in high-altitude, usually arrive in Zemithang and Sangti, 200 km away, during Nov-Dec every year, and depart around Feb-March. They are yet to be sighted this year. In Zemithang, a 3-km stretch along the Nyamjang Chhu river is one of their wintering sites. Locals say even this stretch has not been spared from mining. Lama Lobsang Gyatso, the general secretary of the Save Mon Region Federation, has appealed to Tawang’s deputy commissioner and divisional forest officer to stop the mining so that the wintering site of the black-necked crane is not disturbed.

A govt official, who did not wish to be identified, said that there is a huge demand for sand and gravel in Tawang, which adjoins China, as large construction projects, including roads and hotels are being undertaken. He said that local communities are indulging in mining as the administration looks on. Gyatso blamed politicians and local administrative officials for the mining. He alleged that most of those involved in the mining operations are politically connected. He pointed out that one of the mining sites was right near the local administration office. The Monpa Buddhists of Tawang revere the black-necked cranes. A week ago, monks from the Tawang Monastery visited Zemithang to request people to stop the sand mining. https://scroll.in/article/859163/illegal-sand-mining-threatens-winter-habitat-of-black-necked-tibetan-cranes-in-tawang (28 Nov 2017)

Assam SC bans mining in Kaziranga The Supreme Court in April 2019 banned the mining activities in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and Tiger Reserve following a report filed by the Central Empowered Committee on the status of mining in the area along the KNP and Karbi Anglong Hills. The order came on a plea filed by conservationist Rohit Choudhury against illegal mining near the KNP. In his petition, he had said that more than 60 illegal stone quarries were in operation at the Karbi Anglong Hills, adjoining the national park, threatening its survival.

“It is hereby ordered that all types of mining and related activities along the southern boundary of the KNP and in the entire catchment area of rivers, streams and rivulets originating in the Karbi Anglong Hill Ranges and flowing into the KNP is hereby banned forthwith,” a statement by the office of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Service, Assam, said on April 30, 2019. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/mining/assam-bans-mining-in-kaziranga-after-supreme-court-order-64299  (02 May 2019)

‘Maintain ban strictly’ During the Sept. 5, 2019 review meeting on implementation of the apex court order, the state government asked the director general of police (DGP) to constitute teams involving police, forest, revenue and transport officials for strict compliance of SC order on total banning of mining activities in Karbi Anglong district.

According to the minute of the meeting chaired by chief secretary Alok Kumar, the team will have jurisdiction over Nagaon and Golaghat districts along with Karbi Anglong. KNP is spread over Nagaon and Golaghat. The minute quoted chief secretary reiterating that the DGP should ensure that no illegal mining and transportation from the Karbi Anglong hills takes place.

“All the Stone Crusher owners shall be given 15 days time to dismantle or remove their machines by DGP, Assam. DGP, Assam shall issue orders that all vehicles carrying mining materials would install GPS, preferably satellite based in their vehicles. Thirty days time is to be given for these installations in the vehicles, after which no vehicle laden with mining produced materials shall be allowed to ply in Karbi Anglong, Golaghat and Nagaon districts without GPS,” the minutes said.

The meeting saw also decided that forest department should take immediate action to digitise transit passes (TP) with barcode for carrying sand, gravel, stones and other quarry products out of mining leases granted under Assam Mines & Minerals Concession Rules 2013. “No vehicle without GPS should be issued TP in Karbi Anglong, Golaghat and Nagaon districts,” the minute said. At the meeting it was also raised that despite 33 mining leases were closed down in Karbi Anglong, presence of18 stone crusher units were identified within the area. These stone crusher units were illegally operated despite their licenses were not renewed from January 1, 2019, the minutes said. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/strict-compliance-of-supreme-court-ban-on-mining-in-karbi-anglong-assam-govt-to-dgp/articleshow/71318544.cms  (26 Sept. 2019)

Cops caught red-handed taking bribe Police officials posted at Manja check post in Diphu of  Karbi Anglong district were caught red-handed on camera while giving free pass to illegal sand traders working in the district by accepting bribes from truck drivers. A team of local journalists along with few locals while making a sudden visit to the Manja check-point on NH-36 also found that illegal sand trade was rampant in the district, allegedly carried out with a nexus between the miners, local police & politicians.

Several sand-loaded trucks coming from Bakulia, Patradisa, Longnit and Disobai area of the district that supplies illegal sand to nearby Dimapur town in Nagaland were allowed to pass through the Manja check-point set up a little ahead of the Manja police station. At the check post, in the name of checking documents of the vehicles crossing by, officials indulge in collecting illegal taxes from goods carrying and sand-loaded trucks.

The illegal sand-laden trucks need to pay illegal taxes at several other check-points on NH-36 until they reach Dimapur. However, denying all on-camera evidences captured by local journalists present at the check-post, a top cop on duty said that he was just checking documents of the vehicles and nothing illegal was going on.

Illegal sand mining has been rampant in several areas of Karbi Anglong district in AssamEastMojo

Speaking to the media, a truck driver revealed that every time they reach a check-point on the route, they are made to halt for a while and the handymen gets down for showing documents and hands over a fixed amount of money to the police personnel on duty. He further informed that they pay a total amount of Rs 4,200 in the name of ‘taxes’ to forest department and police personnel on a single trip from Patradisa to Lahorijan along Assam-Nagaland border.

“For the protection range, we have to pay Rs 300, for Manja Central Range, we pay Rs 500. We also pay Rs 300 each for Manja police and Dillai police, Rs 200 at 10 Mile Dillai Road and Rs 900 at Lahorijan for both the police and forest departments,” a truck handyman said. On being questioned by media persons about the unlawful taxes collected from illegal sand-laden trucks, a cop on duty at Manja check-post refused to give an explanation. He said he was just performing his duty as directed by the higher officials. https://www.eastmojo.com/assam/2019/08/01/assam-cops-caught-red-handed-taking-bribe-for-illegal-sand-mining  (01 Aug. 2019)

Sand mining goes unregulated in Karbi Anglong Uncontrolled mining of sand and gravel from river beds and agricultural lands has assumed an alarming proportion in the hill district of Karbi Anglong. Urbanization and the construction boom has played a huge role in upping the demand for sand. The district of Karbi Anglong is crisscrossed with several rivers and rivulets and sand mining here has been an old practice. The Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) floats tenders to mine sand from these river beds. However, a lot more than the prescribed limit of extraction is carried out.

Karbi Anglong alone caters to the sand demand of Dimapur, the commercial hub of Nagaland. A part of Manipur is also sourcing construction sand from Karbi Anglong. This has escalated the demand and has spawned a thriving black market of sand here. The rising demand for construction grade sand and the unprecedented lack of jobs have pushed many tribal youths into this lucrative sand mining business. River beds and agricultural land with sand deposits have been scrapped and stripped bare by openly flouting all rules and regulations. The practice of using suction machines to pump out sand has, of late, made the matters worse.

In the Balipathar area of Bokajan, unscientific extraction of sand from agricultural land using suction machines is a common phenomenon. This activity is carried out in broad daylight under the very nose of the forest department and the district administration. Machines operate round-the-clock as huge mounds of recently excavated sand can be seen piled up along the NH-39 regularly. This practice is allegedly carried out in connivance with the forest department. The department’s presence is limited to the highway and a few seizures periodically. However, on ground, the department has deliberately failed to enforce regulations and stop exploitation.

Illegal sand mining has also stripped the KAAC in terms of revenue. A truckload of illegally mined sand (400 cft) costs Rs 10,000-12,000 at source depending on the quality. No forest royalty is paid causing a loss of revenue to KAAC. Hundreds of such trucks ply on the highway. https://www.sentinelassam.com/north-east-india-news/assam-news/sand-mining-goes-unregulated-in-karbi-anglong-with-uncontrolled-mining-from-river-beds-and-agricultural-lands/  (03 June 2019)

Illegal sand mining poses threat to Dibrugarh dyke Illegal sand mining on Brahmaputra river bed is posing serious threat to eastern Dibrugarh Town Protection (DTP) dyke. However, every day truck loads of sand are extracted from the Maijan area and sent out. Sand mafia in nexus with some forest officials have been illegally collecting sand from the Brahmaputra river bed for years, posing a serious threat to the people of the area.

At Maijan, Mohanaghat and Jokai area the illegal extraction of sand from the Brahmaputra river bed has been rampant under the nose of the district administration. Daily 10 to 15 truck loaded sand pass through the Maijan road but the concerned department have so far failed to nab the persons involved in illegal mining of sand. https://nenow.in/north-east-news/assam/assam-illegal-sand-mining-poses-threat-to-dibrugarh.html  (03 Feb. 2020)

The incident resulted in environmentalists and senior citizens of Dibrugarh raising concern about the ongoing illegal sand mining in the river bed of Brahamaputra. “The illegal sand mining has been posing a serious threat to the ecology and the DTP dyke and due to that it’s has weakened the DTP dyke and if the concerned department didn’t take action against the sand mafias then one day Dibrugarh goes under water,” said Ram Mohan Lal, a senior citizen of Dibrugarh.

“Though the illegal act is going on openly with the knowledge of the law enforcing agencies like police & revenue circle officers, we smell a deep-rooted nexus between the officials and the sand mafias” people allege. https://www.telegraphindia.com/north-east/sand-mining-threat-to-dyke-from-brahmaputra-riverbed-in-maijan/cid/1742621 (5 Feb 2020)

It is worth to mention that Enforcement & Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining 2020 released in January 2020 include direction to states to carry out river audits, put detailed survey reports of all mining areas online & in the public domain, conduct replenishment studies of riverbeds, constantly monitor mining with drones, aerial & ground surveys and set up dedicated task forces at the district level. https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/north-east/sand-mining-threat-to-dyke-from-brahmaputra-riverbed-in-maijan/cid/1742621 (6 Feb 2020) However these directions are apparently not being followed in Assam.

Nagaland Ban in Assam hits supply in Nagaland The Sand Mahaldar Suppliers’ Association (SMSA), at Manja has resolved to increase the rate of sand from INR 32 to INR 110 per cubic feet (cft) when the ban on interstate supply of sand is lifted by the KAAC.

The press statement stated that “KAAC in its notification on Aug 8, 2020 bans riverbed mining and interstate supply of sand. The same was subsequently notified again by the DFO, East Divisision Karbi Anglong on Aug 10, 2020 to totally ban the interstate supply of sand to Dimapur, Nagaland through NH 36 and NH 39.” https://easternmirrornagaland.com/sand-to-cost-inr-110-per-cft-once-ban-on-supply-to-dimapur-is-lifted/  (05 Sept. 2020)

Locals object to rise in sand price Construction grade sand from Manja, Deopani and Kanaighat from Numaligarh are widely used in Nagaland. The variant from Manja is said to be in high demand because it is cheaper than the Kanaighat sand and better in quality than Deopani sand. Locally available Dhansiri sand is not preferred because it is fine-grained.

The ‘mahaldars’ in Manja have attributed increased labour and transportation costs, besides, statutory taxes as reasons for the unprecedented rate hike. However, he said that the justification does not make sense “When the economy is down, when the construction sector is down, the price should go down. There is no logic.”

He said that earlier, there was a good working relationship when prices were fixed only after consultation of traders from both sides. But this tradition is said to have changed with the traders at source independently fixing the rate. He said, “They know we have no internal source of high grade sand. They know that we’ll be compelled to buy at rates fixed by them.”

Further, he disclosed that the bidding for sand mining in Manja have become very competitive, which implies bidders quoting ever increasing rates to outbid competitors.  After winning the bidding war, there is the reality of taxes & royalty, both illicit & statutory.  According to him, the traders here are not to be blamed entirely. However, unscrupulous traders, from here and at source, manipulating the rate. Another held that the state govt should intervene. “I blame it on the dist administration. Why is it keeping mum?” https://morungexpress.com/sand-traders-from-dimapur-and-manja-scheduled-to-meet (11 Apr 2020)

Tripura River banks facing massive erosion due to mining Rivers banks in many places are crumbling down due to unabated lifting of sand by machines from riverbeds and also increasing the fear of floods during the rainy season. The money spent by the govt to preserve the riverbanks are also being wasted. Such reports are coming from places along the rivers like Haoura, Gomoti, Deo, Dhalai, Khowai & their tributaries. The NH are also facing serious erosion at many areas of north Tripura due to unabated illegal river sand mining.

The BJP-IPFT coalition govt immediately after coming into power imposed a ban on this illegal practice but with the passage of time, it all have evaporated. The ban is still there but not implemented. The Forest dept earlier invited applications for issuing license for sand mining manually but till now no license has been issued providing fertile ground for the illegal sand miners.

A racket is active everywhere to protect this illegal business with the backing of both the ruling and the Opposition political parties and some govt officials. Issuing transit by the Forest dept becomes another source of corruption. It is learned that the contractors deposit fee for one truck whereas two or three trucks are transported while the Forest officials remain silent.

This illegal business, 24X7, is disturbing civic life as high sounds of the machines causes pollution and the roads are getting damaged due to the sand carrying vehicles using rural roads that are not meant for such heavy vehicles. https://www.sentinelassam.com/north-east-india-news/tripura-news/sand-mining-river-banks-in-tripura-facing-massive-erosion/ (29 Feb 2020) 

Meghalaya NGO members attacked Some members of the All Meghalaya Minority Students’ Union (AMMSU) in West Garo Hills (WGH) sustained injuries after being allegedly attacked by people belonging to a group of illegal sand smugglers from Assam. It was informed that the incident took place on July 4, when the alleged criminal elements from Assam, beat up the group when they went to stop the illegal extraction of sand from the Jinijram River near the Ginning Mill area, bordering Assam. https://thenortheasttoday.com/meghalaya-ngo-members-thrashed-while-trying-to-stop-illegal-sand-mining-in-garo-hills/  (05 July 2020)

Govt not to ban sand mining but regulate it Facing rampant mining in the state, the state govt said in Oct. 2013 that while sand mining would not be banned, it would put in place regulations and provide alternative options for sustainable livelihood for those involved.

Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma said, “We need to embark upon a system of engagement with these stakeholders who are engaging in sand and stone quarrying or any other activities as their livelihood and accordingly prevail upon them to take up various other options of livelihood programmes which the depts concerned can provide.”

“Depts concerned have to identify certain areas which can be allowed for sand and stone quarrying and where certain restriction should be imposed,” Sangma said. This is in the context of hills are being razed to the ground affecting water sources and the flora and fauna.

“Quarrying might lead to a catastrophe in Meghalaya like Uttarakhand if immediate measures are not implemented to check the menace,” Naba Bhattacharjee, environmentalist of Meghalaya People’s Environment Rights Forum (MPERF) said. https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/meghalaya-not-to-ban-sand-mining-but-regulate-it/article23110144.ece  (23 Oct. 2013)

Summary:-There were not enough media reports on the issue of sand mining in remaining states of East and North East India. Hence we have prepared the single compilation covering these states. We have also put some informative reports from previous years which we had not compiled earlier to highlight the problems of illegal mining.

Also the issues of sand mining governance remain to be analysed. This includes review of mining departments, status of formation of DEIAA, State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), creation of District Minerals Foundations (DMF) and collection and utilization of funds under DMF in these states.

Broadly the available report suggests that despite efforts, the administration has not been successful in controlling illegal sand mining activities in Jharkhand. Despite NGT ban, there is illegal mining happening in Subarnarekha river in Jamshedpur. The Garhwa district which had seen major violent clash between miners and villagers resulting in death of four villagers in May 2017, is still witnessing sand mining related violence. Similarly the government officials in the state have face violent attacks there. Kanhar, Koyal, Khokha Sone, Sapda, Sankh are other rivers which have seen illegal sand mining operations.

In Chhattisgarh the new government has taken back sand mining rights back from Panchayats. In September 2020, Kamal Shukla, editor of Bhoomkal was attacked brutally for reporting against involvement of politicians in illegal sand mining. Illegal sand mining is rampant in Shivnath river in the state. The Ong river which forms boundary with Odisha is meeting the same fate.

The illegal mining in Leesh river, West Bengal creating deep pits has led to death of a 10 year old kid in July 2019. The report of violent clash in rival sand miner groups in Birbhum district killing 8 people and injuring many in April 2017 is quite shocking. In past, all the three major river basins of the state – the Bhagirathi-Hooghly, Damodar and Teesta – have seen large scale unsustainable mining operations. Though there are not much reporting on the issue of recent times, however the concerned people living there have revealed that politicians are involved in illegal mining and there has been no change in the situation. Riverbed minerals are still being transported to Bangladesh.  

In Manipur the persistent efforts by Thoubal River Conservation Committee against rampant mining activities in Thoubal river causing the water pollution resulted in a ban by High Court in July 2019. While, the step led to livelihood issues for the labours involved in mining, it also provided state government an opportunity to initiate governance measures in regulating the mining menace.

The report from Sikkim highlights looming threats on river otters outside protected areas by human activities including sand mining in Teesta river. Similarly, the November 2017 report from Arunachal Pradesh reveals impact of sand mining on winter habitat of black necked cranes along Nyamjang Chhu river in Tawang districts.

The SC has banned mining in rivers, streams in KNP and Karbi Anglong district in April 2019. Despite ban reports suggest mining was taking place and police and police officials allowing sand transportation by taking bribes. Later the state government appeared implementing the order strictly.

It seems that the state has turned into a supply hub for riverbed minerals to most of north eastern states. The Karbi Anglong district is particularly affected by illegal mining activities. The KAAC has failed to control the illegal mining. The growing demand is leading to increased mining and adverse impacts on rivers, farm and forest lands there. Similarly, the illegal riverbed mining in Brahmaputra are reported damaging the DTP dyke thus creating flood threats for Dibrugarh town.

Nagaland is largely dependent on Assam for supply of sand as the quality of minerals in state rivers is not good. The ban in Assam and increase in taxes, transportation charges, labour cost has resulted in steep rise in sand prices in Nagaland from Rs. 32 cft to 110 cft which the SMSA and the local people there have been objected to and blaming Assam traders for manipulating prices without consultation with SMSA.

In Tripura the banks of Haoura, Gomoti, Deo, Dhalai, Khowai & their tributaries are seen facing erosion due to unabated illegal sand mining activities. It has also affected the NH in the state. The new government had banned the illegal practices but it has failed to implement the ban.  

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

Please also see SANDRP annual overview for the year 2019-20 for following states:

J&K Riverbed Mining 2020: Rivers exposed to mechanized mining

Himachal Pradesh sand mining 2020: No Replenishment study, district foundation

Uttarakhand Riverbed Mining 2020: Rivers, People, Revenue Robbed

Punjab Sand Mining Overview 2019: Story of Political Patronage & Goonda Tax

Haryana Riverbed Mining 2019: Yamuna Robbed of Minerals, Flows

UP riverbed mining overview: NGT, CBI, Govts cannot stop the menace

Rajasthan River Sand Mining Overview 2019: SC Ban Remains, Police-Mafia Gang Rules

Madhya Pradesh River Sand Mining 2019: Rivers mined Dry; Govt not bothered

Maharashtra Riverbed Mining Overview 2019: Mining Posing Bigger Threats As Government Fails To Act

Gujarat Riverbed Mining Overview 2019: Six People Died Due To Illegal Sand Mining

Goa Riverbed Mining Overview 2019: Civil Societies Form Network To Curb Mining Menace

Kerala 2020 Sand Mining: Don’t forget floods, fisherfolks & vanishing villages

Karnataka Sand Mining 2020: Active Collector, Destruction of fish sanctuary & calm collection

Tamil Nadu Sand Mining 2020: Persistent Court can’t shake indifferent govt

Andhra Pradesh Riverbed Mining 2020: Quicksand of mismanagement

Telangana Riverbed Mining 2020: Tribals, Godavari robbed

Bihar Sand Mining 2020: Ruining rivers; aggravating floods

Odisha River Sand Overview 2020: Another mining ravaged state

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