Sand Mining

2022 Riverbed Mining: 5 Bridges Collapsed, 22 Threatened

The indiscriminate, mechanized riverbed mining activities are not only impacting the river eco-systems and dependent communities in multiple adverse ways, but are also damaging the river based infrastructures including road bridges, railway bridges, embankments, irrigation channels and potable water supply schemes for past many years. We have put together reports on infrastructural damages and threats due to excessive riverbed mining in India in 2022. Our 2021, 2018 reports on this topic can be seen by clicking the links.   

AUG 20 2022: Punjab HP Interstate Railway Bridge COLLAPSES Illegal mining blamed for collapse of railway bridge Amid heavy rains, the 800-metre-long railway bridge over the Chakki rivulet on the border of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh in Kangra district collapsed on the morning of August 20. A flash flood in the Chakki rivulet washed away the weakened pillar of the bridge.

The 90-year-old railway bridge was weakened following illegal mining in the riverbed. The railway authorities had repeatedly complained regarding the damage being caused to the bridge due to illegal mining.

Pathankot Deputy Commissioner (DC) Harbir Singh was reported to be saying that no mining was taking place within 1 km upstream and downstream of the railway bridge. “About eight years ago when the rail bridge was damaged, the railway authorities constructed a platform under the bridge to save it. The NHAI had asked the railways to break the platform as it was diverting the entire water flow towards one side. The diversion of 70,000 cusecs towards one pillar can be one of the reasons behind the bridge’s collapse,” he said. https://www.newsclick.in/HP-Unabated-Illegal-Mining-Blamed-Collapse-Railway-Bridge-Kangra  (24 Aug. 2022)

Pathankot DC Harbir Singh on Aug. 24 2022 ordered a probe into the collapse of around a century-old British-era railway bridge over Chakki river connecting Pathankot in Punjab with Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, amid the talk that the bridge has collapsed due to illegal mining on the riverbed and “the government did not take measures to stop it”.

Requesting anonymity, a senior official said that illegal mining was a minor factor. “Main factors behind the collapse are not being talked about. For example, the railways cast concrete below the bridge to strengthen the pillars caused a blockade for flow of water. As a result, water finds a way to flow from a small stretch below the bridge on the Punjab side. Consistent flow of water from that stretch weakened the pillars falling in this stretch and they could not face the force of the flash floods. The NHAI has pointed out this factor in its report sent to the railways,” he said.

He said, “A committee constituted by Punjab & Haryana HC, 6 years ago also gave its observation about the bridge. It too stated that the water flowing on the Punjab side is resulting in creation of a gorge in the bed of the river and weakening the pillars of the bridge on this side.” https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/dc-orders-probe-into-collapse-of-british-era-chakki-rly-bridge-101661370504915.html  (25 Aug. 2022)

A committee formed in 2012 had recommended no sand mining at least 500 meters from both sides of a bridge. Who is going to get it implemented? https://thenewzradar.com/northern-railway-officials-to-meet-himachal-chief-secretary-on-august-26-to-plan-restoration-of-british-era-chakki-bridge/ (22 Aug. 2022)

July 2022: More trains suspended on Pathankot- Jogindernagar line Due to indiscriminate sand mining in Chakki riverlet leading to weakening of railway bridge, all train services have been stopped along Pathankot Jogindernagar interstate railway line involving Punjab & HP. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/four-more-trains-suspended-on-pathankot-jogindernagar-line-413344  (18 July 2022)

Aug 2 2022: Chakki Bridge declared unsafe by railway authorities It may be recalled that the railway department initially had suspended three night up and down trains on July 1st keeping in view the monsoon rains and threat of triggering landslides on the railway track. But later on July 17 all remaining four up and down day time trains had been suspended due to the dilapidated condition of the Chakki railway bridge.

Unabated illegal mining near this bridge for the past over three decades had weakened the supporting pillars and protection wall of the bridge. The railway department had spent lakhs of rupees for the repair of the damaged pillars and protection wall several times during the past decade but failed to chalk out any plan to re-construct this over ninety years old bridge that had outlived its utility. Now sudden closure of the narrow-gauge railway track has left thousands of daily train passengers in Kangra dist in lurch.   https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/train-service-on-pathankot-jogindernagar-route-cancelled-indefinitely-chakki-bridge-declared-unsafe-by-railway-authorities-418071 (2 Aug 2022)

AUG 18 2022: Punjab govt told to stop mining around railways bridges The Ministry of Railways asked the government to ensure that all mining activity around the railway bridges in the state must be stopped immediately as it threatens the safety of the bridges.

In a letter to the state government, the ministry said: “It has come to our notice that during the monsoon, Bridge No. 32 on Pathankot-Joginder Nagar narrow gauge section has become unsafe due to mining in Chakki river. “You will appreciate that this has a serious impact on railway connectivity. It is requested that steps to control illegal mining may kindly be intensified,” reads the letter.

It also draws the attention to a judgment passed by the High Court of Himachal Pradesh in 2012 where a panel was set up under the Deputy Commissioners of Kangra and Pathankot to suggest protection measures for Bridge No.32. The state government has assured that no mining would be allowed 500 metres upstream and downstream of the bridge. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/punjab-government-told-to-stop-mining-around-railway-bridges-422746  (18 Aug. 2022)

Collapsed portion of railway bridge over the Chakki river after flash flood triggered by heavy monsoon rains. (PTI/HT, Aug. 20, 2022)

Pleas by locals went unheard Locals consistently flagged the mining threat to the bridges on the Chakki rivulet, a tributary of the Beas, in Nurpur but the administration paid no heed to their warnings. Had the government taken note of the persistent demand of villagers to check illegal mining on the banks of the Chakki rivulet, the collapse of the inter-state railway and NH bridges connecting the state with Punjab could have been averted. Despite the successive governments’ tall claims to curb the mining, the menace continues unabated, allegedly indicating a deep nexus between the mining mafia, political leaders and bureaucracy.

Hoshiyar Singh, president of Kangra unit of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, claimed that 15 villages under Jikli Khanni, Uprli-Khanni, Hadal and Baduee panchayats in Nurpur were badly affected due to the illegal mining. “Illegal mining is carried out at night, but the authorities concerned turn a blind eye,” he alleged. The illegal mining has also rendered the agricultural land barren and dried up the underground water sources, he added. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/deep-nexus-locals-blame-collapse-of-railway-nh-bridges-on-illegal-mining-in-nurpur-424310  (23 Aug. 2022)

30 stranded after flash floods in Chakki rescued This attempt to change the course of Chakki river along HP-Punjab (Pathankot-Mandi) NH 154 to save the NH pillar from further erosion could pose fresh flood threats along the river. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/30-stranded-after-flash-floods-in-chakki-rescued-426604  (30 Aug. 2022)

NHAI intensifies efforts to prevent damage to Chakki highway bridge The NHAI with the help of army has intensified its operation to prevent damage to the Chakki highway bridge after the foundation of its two support pillars was exposed due to riverbed erosion in August 20 floods. The double-lane bridge over Chakki rivulet, a tributary of Beas, on Pathankot-Mandi NH 154 connecting Himachal with Punjab is currently closed for traffic amid fears that it may collapse if preventive measures are not taken. The highway bridge runs parallel to the colonial-era railway bridge that was washed away in the flood. Illegal mining in the Chakki rivulet is said to be the main reason behind the damage to the bridges.

The Chakki bridge was earlier closed for traffic on August 20 but reopened on August 23 after the preliminary report of NHAI cited no damage to the bridge. It, however, was closed again on August 24 after the NHAI wrote to the Kangra and Pathankot districts mentioning potential damage. The NHAI in its report said that the Chakki rivulet after its course change was flowing through between pillar number 1 and 2 on the Punjab side posing a threat to the bridge. The project director, NHAI, Palampur, Colonel Anil Sen said the riverbed has eroded near the pillars exposing their foundation beyond the permissible level. https://www.hindustantimes.com/cities/chandigarh-news/nhai-intensifies-efforts-to-prevent-damage-to-chakki-highway-bridge-101661549473319.html  (27 Aug. 2022)

After railways, illegal mining a threat to road bridge next to it Officials admitted that road traffic bridge, which was opened on January 10, 2011, is still facing the threat of collapse in a flash flood of similar intensity that damaged the Chakki rail bridge as the illegal mining continues unabated on the riverbed in Punjab. In the August flash flood, two pillars of the bridge were exposed. They were repaired but there were many lapses in maintenance, an official said, adding “it’s vulnerable owing to callousness”.

The July 31 flashflood in the Chakki river resulted in damage to protection works and scouring near Pier No 3 of the bridge that developed a crack. On August 20, a cloudburst was experienced in the area leading to abnormally heavy water discharge with high velocity in the Chakki river. Protection works done by the Railways to protect the piers of the bridge suffered extensive damages as the river bed downstream was very low. Seven piers and six spans of the bridge were washed away or declared unsafe.

Taking note of the disaster, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has sought reports from the Punjab government on collapse of the railway bridge on August 20. “The railway bridge was destroyed during floods again, owing to illegal mining. In the circumstances, as there are reports of illegal mining in the said river as well, the authorities and parties are also directed to place on record the steps initiated by the state in this regard,” the bench of Justices R.S. Jha and Arun Palli had observed during a hearing on the illegal mining in Punjab. https://latestnews.fresherslive.com/articles/after-chakki-bridge-washout-illegal-mining-a-threat-to-road-bridge-next-to-it-1092771  (06 Nov. 2022)

Himachal Pradesh Illegal mining threatens another historic railway bridge Illegal mining that continues unabated in the Binwa rivulet at Baijnath in Kangra has endangered another railway bridge on the heritage Pathankot-Jogindernagar track, besides posing threat to an adjoining highway bridge and the famous 13th century Shiva temple in the town. Despite tall claims by the local administration and the Mining Department, a large number of mules can be seen carrying extracted sand and gravel from the rivulet’s banks. The illegally mined material was transported on mules to certain points from where it was shifted to vehicles by the mining mafia for further sale, said Ghanshyam Awasthi, an environmental activist. Deep trenches dug by the mining mafia on the riverbed had weakened the retaining walls of the temple and the pillars of the two bridges, said residents. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/illegal-mining-threatens-another-historic-rly-bridge-in-kangra-425363  (26 Aug. 2022)

Water scheme in Thural goes defunct due to illegal mining A lift irrigation scheme feeding half a dozen villages in the Garthoon area of Thural Tehsil has become defunct due to illegal mining in the Neugal river. The Irrigation and Public Health Department had started lifting water from the Neugal through the scheme 10 years ago. Because of reckless and unscientific illegal mining near bore wells, pump house of the scheme and deep trenches that have been dug up in the riverbed, there is no water left in the rivulet and the scheme has gone defunct. Earlier, the lift irrigation scheme feeding Sanhoon, Damen, Haldra and Phanger villages have dried up following illegal mining in the Mol khud.

Large-scale mining has also affected groundwater level as bore wells have also dried up. A senior IPH Department officer says the Assistant Engineer, IPH Department, Thural, has written to the District Mining Officer, Kangra, for initiating action against culprits. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/water-scheme-in-thural-goes-defunct-due-to-illegal-mining-450954  (15 Nov. 2022)

Large-scale illegal mining has endangered a bridge over the Neugal river linking 50 villages with Thural. Illegal mining is going on close to the bridge. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/illegal-mining-bridge-over-neugal-river-linking-50-villages-with-thural-endangered-390250  (29 April 2022)

Illegal mining: Water scheme dries up in lower Palampur. Ravindar Sood/The Tribune

Impact of illegal mining in lower Palampur area in Kangra Water sources become defunct, rivulets stop flowing, no water for irrigation or drinking water, danger to paths, culverts, transmission lines, roads, etc. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/himachal/illegal-mining-water-scheme-dries-up-in-lower-palampur-438270  (05 Oct. 2022)

Beas tributary changes course due to illegal sand mining Rampant illegal mining along the Beas has forced one of its tributaries to change its course, made the riverbed unstable and harmed Mol Khud, which feeds several drinking water supply schemes and irrigation channels in lower areas of Palampur. https://www.newsclick.in/Beas-Tributary-Changes-Course-Illegal-Sand-Mining  (09 Jan. 2023)

Mining lead to collaspse of community building safety wall Under sub-tehsil Kotla, the crate wall adjacent to the community building Kotla has been broken posing danger to the houses and community building of Kotla village. To save Kotla village from flood in Dehar khad a protection wall was built. However illegal mining close to the wall has damaged a large portion of it. Locals fear if the wall is not repaired before the 2023 monsoon, then the flood in  Dehar Khad can cause damages to houses and community building. https://www.divyahimachal.com/2023/01/crater-wall-collapses-due-to-mining-threat-to-community-building/  (13 Jan. 2023)

Bihar Sand-mining poses threat to Koilwar bridge A railway official at Danapur, said if the illegal mining of sand in the periphery of the foundation of the pillar is not immediately checked, it will be unsafe for the traffic movement. The railways took notice of the fact that about three lakh cubic feet sand was being dug out every day from the restricted area around the bridge, and it has weakened the foundation of the pillars.

A letter was sent to the state govt in May 1999 to check the mining of sand from the prohibited area, but to no avail. The railways sent a reminder in July 2001, but it, too, evinced no positive response. Irked at the silence of the state government, the railways sent an SOS to the government in April 2022. Unfortunately, it, too, failed to wake up the authorities concerned.

Realising the gravity of the situation and poor condition of the bridge, the railways have issued a warning that no sand mining will now be carried out within the restricted area of 2,000 feet on the south & 1,000 feet on the north of the bridge. Recently, the railway put up a warming board even near the bridge to caution people against mining sand in the restricted area, but it has no desired effect.

The state govt is charging about Rs 350 per truck for mining and loading of the sand. Crores of rupees are thus realised each month for the govt from sand muining under the Koilwar bridge. The Koilwar bridge is one of the oldest road-cum-rail bridges in the country. It was built by the British in 1900  and is the only direct link of Patna with New Delhi and the main lines Howrah end. It is about 4,300 feet long, supported by 29 main foundation pillars. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/sand-mining-poses-threat-to-koilwar-bridge/articleshow/22106825.cms  (14 Sept. 2022)

Base of Koliwar road cum railways bridge in damaged condition. Image by Puneet Gupta, Ashish Gupta, Akashdeep Roy, September 25, 2022

Sand Mining – A Photo Essay in Koilwar https://sagemagazine.org/sand-mining/ (25 Sep 2022) Sand-mining poses threat to Koilwar bridge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMdewBWiVE8  (2012) https://www.livehindustan.com/bihar/story-bihar-police-came-up-with-unique-trick-to-stop-illegal-sand-mining-in-ara-bhojpur-made-barrier-under-koilwar-bridge-with-seized-boats-4274635.html   (30 July 2021)

The continuous illegal sand mining in Kosi river in Saharsa may pose a threat to the Baluaha high level bridge. The Kosi river could take a new path from the site of erosion and will also become a threat to the embankment. The water resources dept has banned sand mining near the embankment. But no department is keeping an eye on the mining near the bridge. https://www.bhaskar.com/local/bihar/saharsa/news/mining-is-happening-around-the-bridge-there-is-a-danger-of-the-peeler-bending-due-to-erosion-129824328.html  (June 2022)

Andhra Pradesh SCR sees threat to structural stability of two bridges Authorities of the South Central Railway (SCR) have sounded an alert on threats to the structural stability of the road-cum-rail bridge and the railway bridge at the Pushkar Ghat due to illegal sand excavation close to the pillars of the two structures in Rajamahendravaram in East Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh. The distance between the two bridges is 720 metres. In the wake of the collapse of the Morbi bridge in Gujarat, the Indian Railways has issued a fresh alert on the threat to the two bridges due to the “unregulated and illegal sand excavation being carried out round the clock close to the two bridges.” The SCR operates trains on the two bridges across the Godavari. 

On Nov 11 2022, East Godavari Collector K. Madhavilatha held talks with the officials of the Railways, Mines and Geology, and river conservation, to chalk out a plan to tackle the threat and avoid any untoward incident. Representatives of 76 boatmen associations were present. The Collector said that the associations had been permitted to extract sand from the banks of the river both on the Kovvuru and Rajamahendravaram points. However, they should not extract sand within 500 m of the two bridges. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/scr-sees-threat-to-structural-stability-of-two-bridges-due-to-illegal-sand-excavation-in-rajamahendravaram/article66124661.ece  (11 Nov. 2022)

No sand mining at bridges on Godavari river Excavating sand at rail-cum-road bridges across Godavari is a punishable offence & criminal cases will be registered against those who violate the rules. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2022/nov/12/no-sand-mining-at-bridges-on-godavari-river-2517543.html (12 Nov 2022)

Telangana Bridge COLLAPSE; illegal sand mining, construction flaws suspected Rampant illegal sand mining is alleged to have resulted in the collapse of a closed bridge near Andavelli in Kagaznagar mandal of Komaram Bheem Asifabad district on Oct. 19 2022. The bridge, constructed on Peddavagu river 20 years ago connecting the three mandals, has 10 pillars and 11 slabs. Slabs 9, 10, and 11 collapsed with the 8th pillar sunk. Construction defects are also suspected. The buildings department had closed the bridge last month by erecting blocks at both ends as its safety was suspect. A pillar had sunk last year. A tender had been called a few days ago for the repairs at a cost of Rs 2.90 lakh.

Activists say the bridge collapsed due to the illegal sand mining from rivulets, streams, and rivers. Illegal sand mining is rampant along River Penganga in the Adilabad district and Godavari in Mancherial district. Contractors who took sand reaches are digging the sand against the permitted depth at the identified sand reaches in the Godavari, activists called on the authorities to take action to curb illegal sand mining under the bridges and near pillars. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/191022/bridge-collapse-at-night-illegal-sand-mining-and-construction-flaws-s.html  (20 Oct. 2022)

A view of the bridge that collapsed at Andevelli village in Kumaram Bheem Asifabad district on Wednesday | Photo Credit: Special arrangement/The Hindu

The direct road link between Kagaznagar and Dahegaon has been cut-off. This has forced the residents of more than 40 villages in Dahegaon and its neighbouring mandals to take a long road route to reach Kagaznagar town. Around 6 schoolchildren had a narrow escape when a makeshift raft carrying them tilted in Peddavagu stream near the bridge last month. They were rescued by local fishermen.

The incident triggered vociferous demands from local residents to construct a new bridge across Peddavagu on a war-footing to revive the direct road connectivity to dozens of villages in Dahegaon and Bheemini mandals. The aggrieved local residents blamed the collapse of the bridge on “indiscriminate sand mining” near the pillars of the vital road link. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/damaged-bridge-across-a-stream-in-kumaram-bheem-asifabad-district-collapses/article66031784.ece  (20 Oct. 2022)

The villagers of remote villages of Dahegaon mandal are risking their lives crossing the river Peddavagu in small rafts made of thermocol sheets to reach Kagaznagar. They do this in the shadow of the broken bridge.

The flow of water can increase suddenly in Peddavagu with heavy rains upstream or water discharged downstream from the Komaram Bheem and Vattivagu projects. Local fishermen bring the rafts to transport people across the Peddavagu. There are dangers of the raft capsizing as the river runs deep at certain spots, and made deeper by sand mining. https://m.dailyhunt.in/news/india/english/deccan+chronicle-epaper-deccanch/villagers+risk+life+to+cross+river-newsid-n423762072  (18 Sept. 2022) Peddavagu river bridge collapsed due to illegal sand mining. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8K3C28Ldb8  (15 Nov. 2022)

Jammu & Kashmir Bridge COLLAPSES; Locals blame unchecked mining Illegal mining is alleged to have resulted in the collapse of a vital road bridge that connects Kulgam with the Chitragam area in the Shopian district of south Kashmir during the intervening night of Nov. 6-7 2022. “Illegal mining is rampant across the Shopian district and the contractors who have been giving the mining projects are digging the rivulets and streams against the permitted depth at the identified sand reaches. The mining happens mainly during the night hours. We saw them digging minerals near the pillars of the bridge,” the locals said.

Collapse of road bridge on Tongri Nallah, Shopian. The Kashmiriyat

They said that the mining near the pillars of the bridge weakened the bridge and it eventually collapsed due to the increased water levels in the Tongri Nallah of Shopian. Locals called on the authorities to take action to curb illegal sand mining under the bridges and near pillars. https://thekashmiriyat.co.uk/bridge-collapse-at-night-in-shopian-locals-blame-unchecked-mining-in-stream/  (07 Nov. 2022)

3 bridges in Poonch area may collapse due to illegal mining Three bridges on Bufliaz river may collapse any time if illegal mining around the bridges is not stopped immediately. Chairman Block Development Council Buflliaz Shafiq Mir has flashed a letter in this connection to DC, Poonch seeking his intervention. In his letter dated 9-8-2022 Mir has written that despite his repeated requests the authorities have not taken any action which suggests that all the illegal business of mining was running with the consent of the law enforcing authorities.

Letter reads that not only bridges, there was a grave threat to the local human population because the land around the river may sink and it may lead to landslides. The letter lists these bridges: Faizalabad bridge, Bufliaz bridge on Mughal Road and Chandimarh-Manehi bridge. https://www.dailyexcelsior.com/3-bridges-in-bufliaz-area-may-collapse-due-to-illegal-mining/  (10 Aug. 2022)

A driver of a vehicle had a narrow escape after a bridge collapsed in Narbal area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district on Aug. 5, 2022. Quoting an official the news agency KNO reported that the decades-old bridge on a Nallah Sukhnag in the Narbal area collapsed when the vehicle (riverbed laden dumper) was crossing it. https://www.dailygoodmorningkashmir.com/narrow-escape-for-driver-as-bridge-collapses/  (05 Aug. 2022)

Jharkhand Illegal mining: Sonpura bridge facing collapse Unabated illegal mining has exposed the pillars of bridge on Sonpura river under Barkagaon block of Hazaribagh district. The sand mafia has taken out so much sand from the foundation of the pillar that iron roads have come out posing safety threat to bridge structure. Now there is less sand and more soil left in the river. According to the villagers of Kandtari, the bridge at Kandtari had collapsed 7 years ago due to illegal sand mining.

Illegal mining posing safety threats to a bridge on Sonpura river in Jharkhand. Prabhat Khabar.

The other rivers Haharo and Badmahi tributaries of Damodar in the area are also affected by excessive sand mining. As a result the water table has lowered affecting farming work. The rivers were rich in sand resources but within 5 years they have been depleted of the minerals. The existence of dozens of small bridges and culverts along with 5 big bridges built on these rivers is in danger. Many bridges have collapsed and many are on the verge of collapse. https://www.prabhatkhabar.com/state/jharkhand/hazaribagh/sand-smugglers-dug-the-foundation-of-sonpura-bridge-of-hazaribagh-it-may-collapse-anytime-smj  (06 Dec. 2022)

This report mentions about danger to Koleshwari bridge on Falgu river due to rampant mining in Chatra district. https://navbharattimes.indiatimes.com/state/jharkhand/chatra/existence-of-mokshadayini-falgu-river-is-in-danger-due-to-illegal-sand-mining-illegal-business-is-flourishing-in-many-other-rivers-as-well/articleshow/95665129.cms  (22 Nov. 2022)

Uttarakhand Mining damaged pillar of Sukhrau bridge The fifth pillar of Sukhrau bridge near Nimbuchoud in Kotdwar sunk in the river during night hours and to save the bridge the PWD in hurry deployed a JCB machine to divert the flow of water which was seized by forest department for digging without permission. In order to avoid any untoward incident, police diverted the traffic towards BL bridge. The 385 metre long bridge costing Rs. 12 crore was inaugurated on 24 May 2010. This bridge connects Kotdwar-Chilarkhal-Laldhang Haridwar, but now the bridge is in danger.

Foundation of Sukharo bridge pillar in Kotdwar facing damages due to excessive riverbed mining with heavy machines. News18

Locals blamed the mining work done during river channelization by Kotdwar administration had lowered the riverbed about 15 feet, weakening the foundation of the bridge. They also alleged that illegal mining is done late at night with the connivance of the forest and revenue depts. As per DP Singh, EE, PWD, Dugadda, the mining mafia has also damaged the pillar foundation of Mawan, Gulargu, Grastanganj and Gadigad bridges in Kotdwar. https://www.etvbharat.com/hindi/uttarakhand/state/pauri-garhwal/mining-mafia-dug-the-pillar-of-sukhrau-bridge-of-kotdwar/uttarakhand20220902172745428428751  (02 Sept. 2022)

The pitching around two pillars of the railway bridge at Sultanpur Patti in Udham Singh Nagar district were damaged after sudden release of water in Kosi river from Kosi barrage in Ramnagar on Oct. 11 2022 disrupting the train services. As per railways officials the train operation would remain suspended till the repair work is done. During inspection on Oct. 12, the DRM Ashutosh Pant and ADRM Rajeev Aggarwal said that the pitching work is washed away by the strong water currents and that excessive, deep mining has been done near bridge pillars which could damage the structure in future. https://www.livehindustan.com/uttarakhand/story-rail-bridge-became-dangerous-after-rain-many-trains-going-to-up-canceled-route-changed-7210144.html  (12 Oct. 2022)

Illegal mining in Kosi river near Shaktinagar Puchdi in Ramnagar, Nainital is not only causing revenue losses to govt but also threat to the safety of Haldwani bypass bridge & houses along the river. https://www.etvbharat.com/hindi/uttarakhand/state/nainital/illegal-mining-being-done-through-horses-in-kosi-river-of-ramnagar/uttarakhand20221208105538051051748 (8 Dec 2022)

Ban mining in Gaula to save bridge: IIT Roorkee The repair approach road to bridge on Gaula river in Haldwani would cost Rs. 23 crores. Part of approach road was washed away in floods last year putting the bridge structure in danger. After the incident, NHAI called the team of IIT Roorkee to save the Gaula bridge, approach road and the team had asked for a complete stop of mining in the Gaula river. The proposal was sent to the District Magistrate but no reply was received.

The IIT Roorkee on being asked by NHAI, submitted for another plan costing Rs 23 crore. This plan would be sent to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and the work would start once it is approved. https://www.amarujala.com/uttarakhand/nainital/gaula-bridge-will-be-saved-at-a-cost-of-23-crores-haldwani-news-hld4613691179  (03 May 2022)

Arunachal Pradesh Bailey bridge at Kiyit on Mebo-Dhola road COLAPSES The steel Bailey bridge over Ngopok river between Kiyit and Borguli along Mebo-Dhola road collapsed on April 27 2022, snapping road communication between Pasighat and Lower Mebo (Namsing) in East Siang dist. The bridge collapsed when a boulder-laden dumper truck was crossing it at around 9 am. The driver escaped unhurt. This affected villages in East Siang and Lower Dibang Valley districts.

Bailey bridge over Ngopok Korong River in Arunachal collapses. Pratidin Times

Supply of essential commodities to these villages is likely to be affected during the monsoon as there is no alternate route to reach Mebo-sub divisional headquarters or Pasighat. The locals alleged that due to the apathy of the authorities, the decades-old bridge was in a dilapidated condition & left unrepaired for several decades. https://arunachaltimes.in/index.php/2022/04/28/bailey-bridge-at-kiyit-on-mebo-dhola-road-collapses/  (28 April 2022)

Punjab Mining takes toll on bridges, groundwater The Swan and Sutlej riverbeds have been dug up till the piers of the bridges. Bridges in the Algran and Agampur areas face the threat of collapse because of rampant illegal mining. Sand has been extracted through submersible pumps up to the depth of 80 ft, much beyond the permissible limit of 10 ft. As a result, the level of underground water has dipped drastically in villages situated along the Sutlej and Swan. Famers say they have to spend lakhs on new tubewells. According to geologist Jaspal Singh, the digging of riverbed to such level punctures the aquifer.

The unchecked mining and tippers overloaded with sand and gravel have also taken a toll on the infrastructure. In 2020, Punjab State Transmission Corp Ltd had submitted an estimate that required Rs 1.2 crore to repair its 220 KV power supply line tower situated in the Sutlej riverbed near Anandpur Sahib. Roads are lined with scores of tippers loaded with sand and gravel, day and night. Almost every link road in the district is in dilapidated condition as overloaded tippers ply on these roads to avoid toll plazas on highways. https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/in-ropar-mining-takes-toll-on-bridges-groundwater-373654  (28 Feb. 2022)

There is risk of Ravi river changing course, poses a security risk in border areas, due to illegal sand mining. https://www.dainiktribuneonline.com/news/punjab/high-court-bans-mining-in-ravi-in-pathankot-and-gurdaspur-115661  (29 Aug. 2022)

Odisha Mining posing threat to old bridge over Budhabalanga river Despite direction from the Mayurbhanj administration and the Revenue department, illegal sand mining has been going on unhindered from around the 500-metre radius of the protected columns supporting the bridge over Budhabalanga river in the district.

Local residents alleged that sand lifting has been going on with the help of JCB machines, which are not allowed near the columns of the bridge due to the threat they pose. There was a nexus between the Revenue officials and miners, over 50 tractors are engaged in transporting sand.

The constant lifting of sand from the bed of Budhabalanga poses a threat to the residents of Madhuban in Baripada municipality and Poda-Astia under Shamakhunta block, as it makes the river vulnerable to flooding, course change and landslides. Baripada tehsildar Bikram Kishor Parida said illegal sand mining was going on as the officers concerned were busy conducting urban local body (ULB) polls. “But we will take immediate action on this,” he said. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2022/mar/28/posing-threat-to-old-bridge-over-budhabalanga-river-in-odisha–jcbs-lift-sand-unabated-2435037.html  (28 March 2022)

Assam Rampant illegal sand mining threatens Bajali Illegal sand mining along the banks of river Pahumara in Lower Bajali dist poses a serious threat to the people in Rajakhat.

Extensive sand mining along the river banks have threatened the livelihood of the people in the past few years, floods have destroyed houses, livestock & farmlands. Locals said that miners have been illegally taking sand from the river banks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omn8hPHO-j8  (02 May 2022)

Chhattisgarh Excessive, illegal sand mining with heavy machines in Mahan river near Kerta village under Pratappur tehsil in Surajpur district is posing safety threat to the road bridge there as per this report. https://www.naidunia.com/chhattisgarh/ambikapur-sand-mining-and-transportation-going-against-the-rules-7602700  (17 June 2022)

Rajasthan Modi Illakhar dam in danger due to illegal mining. https://www.bhaskar.com/local/rajasthan/jhunjhunu/khetari/news/due-to-mining-the-existence-of-modi-elakhar-dam-which-quenches-the-thirst-of-a-dozen-villages-is-in-danger-save-dam-sangharsh-samiti-held-a-meeting-and-warned-of-agitation-130750935.html  (02 Jan. 2022)

There was a news report on illegal mining threat to the same dam about two years back: https://www.bhaskar.com/local/rajasthan/sikar/jhunjhunu/news/cmo-order-to-probe-mining-in-modi-ilakhar-dam-area-again-128229032.html 

Study The environmental impacts of river sand mining The effects of river sand mining extend far beyond the immediate mining sites. The effects on the physical- and biological environment are often cumulative and therefore hard to quantify and assess. However, the observed effects generally result in a decreased geo- and biodiversity. The effects on the chemical and anthropogenic environment illustrate how river sand mining also severely affects the livelihood of people depending on or living near the river and that it can do great social and economic harm. The complexity and cascading nature of the effects show the urgency and severity of the problem. The biggest consuming areas often have poor infrastructure and poor governing bodies. Rapidly developing countries of Asia & Africa require scientific policies & enforcement. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969722029746 (10 Sep 2022)

Summary Table of Bridges damaged and facing threats due to riverbed mining in 2022

SNBridgeMonthRiverDistrict/ StateStatus
1Chakki Railway BridgeAug. 2022ChakkiKangra/ Himachal PradeshCollapsed
2Chakki Highway BridgeAug. 2022ChakkiKangra/ Himachal PradeshDamaged
3Railways BridgeAug. 2022BinwaKangra/ Himachal PradeshThreatened
4Koliwar Road cum Rail BridgeSept. 2022SonePatna/ BiharThreatened
51 Road cum Rail Bridge, 1 Railways BridgeNov. 2022GodavariEast Godavari/ Andhra PradeshThreatened
6Road BridgeOct. 2022PeddavaguKomaram Bheem Asifabad/ TelanganaCollapsed
7Road BridgeNov. 2022Tongri NallahShopian/ Jammu & KashmirCollapsed
83 Road BridgesAug. 2022Bufliaz riverPoonch/ Jammu & KashmirThreatened
9Road bridgeAug. 2022Sukhnag nallahBudgam/ Jammu & KashmirCollapsed
10Road BridgeDec. 2022SonpuraHazaribagh/ JharkhandDamaged
115 Road bridgesDec. 2022Haharo, Badmahi riversHazaribagh/ JharkhandThreatened
12Koleshwari BridgeNov. 2022FalguChatra/ JharkhandThreatened
13Road bridgeNov. 2022SukhroPauri/ UttarakhandDamaged, 4 other bridges in Kotdwar threatened.
14Railways BridgeOct. 2022KosiUS Nagar/ UttarakhandDamaged
15Road BridgeDec. 2022KosiNainital/ UttarakhandThreatened
17Bailey BridgeApril 2022NgopokEast Siang/ Arunachla PradeshCollapsed
182 BridgesFeb. 2022SutlejRupnagar/ PunjabThreatened
19Road BridgeMarch 2022Budhabalanga riverMayurbhanj/ OdishaThreatened
20Road BridgeJune 2022Mahan riverSurajpur/ ChhattisgarhThreatened

Summary The excessive riverbed mining activities continued to damage public infrastructure facilities across the country in 2022. At least six British era railways bridges are particularly found bearing the brunt of rampant mining operations.

First the 90 year old railways bridge on Chakki river in Nurpur area of Kangra district in Himachal Pradesh was washed away in August 2022 following flood spell. The bridge was closed twice in July 2022 after damages to its pillars and there are several reports attributing illegal riverbed mining as reason behind the collapse of the bridge.

Sadly, the administrative probe to find out the reason, restriction on mining by railways and judiciary came only after the man-made disaster whereas local people and concerned had been flagging the issue for a long time.

The incident has also wasted railways previous efforts and money put into the repair the bridge. Reports mention about another historic railways bridge on Binwa river in Baijnath, Kangra is facing safety threat to mining activities.

The report on Koliwar Rail cum Road Bridge on Sone river in Patna, Bihar is quite alarming where the officials for years have been warning about possible damages to the bridge structure due to illegal sand mining, however neither the central nor state govt have taken any measure to address the threat.

Similarly, the South Central Railway (SCR) officials have sounded alert on threats to the structural stability of the road-cum-rail bridge and the railway bridge on Godavari river at the Pushkar Ghat due to illegal sand excavation close to the pillars of the two structures in Rajamahendravaram in East Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh following which the administration had to issue order stopping mining within 500 metre distance of these structures.

Also the sudden release of flood water from Kosi barrage in Ramnagar, Uttarakhand has reportedly damaged the pitching work of two pillars of a railways bridge in Sultanpur patti, US Nagar district in October 2022 leading to suspension of train services. During inspection, officials also found deep mining activities near bridge pillars as potential threat to its safety.

Narrow Escape For Driver As Bridge Collapses in Budgam district on Aug. 5, 2022. Kashmir Life

Apart from these railways bridges, there are at least four road bridges two in J&K and one each in Telangana and Arunachal Pradesh which have faced destruction and about 22 other road bridges in Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Bihar are seen facing significant threats from mechanized and illegal riverbed mining.

In Asifabad district, Telangana the mining ravaged bridge on Peddavagu river finally collapsed in October 2022 disrupting mobility of large population who are either risking their lives to cross the river by make-shift boats or forced to take long routes for their everyday chores.

Similarly, in November 2022, a vital bridge vital road bridge on Tongri Nallah in Shopian district of south Kashmir collapsed due to rampant mining while three bridges in Poonch district face collapse threat from illegal mining in Buffiaz river. Before this, a bridge on Sukhnag nullah in Budgam district collapsed when a riverbed laden dumper was crossing it in Aug. 2022.

In East Siang district, Arunachal Pradesh a steel Bailey bridge over Ngopok river in collapsed in April 2022 when a boulder-laden dumper truck was crossing. The decades old bridge was already in weak condition and was left unrepaired for long by the government. Such incidents are common in hilly states where heavy vehicles put additional burden on bridges meant for relatively lighter vehicles. 

Apart from the railways bridge on Chakki river in Kangara, Himachal Pradesh, a highway bridge located next to it has also reportedly faced damages due to illegal mining. Additionally, the irrigation and drinking water supply schemes in Thural tehsil of Kangara continued to suffer destruction due to unabated mining in Neugal river.  

The December 2022 Hindi report with pictures of iron roads coming out from foundation of bridge on Sonpura river in Hazaribagh district, Jharkhand as a result of excessive quarrying is quite revealing.  As per the report the several bridges in past had fallen for same reason in the area and in addition to affecting fertile farming land, lowering groundwater table; the act has endangered the safety of 5 big bridges and dozens of small bridges, culverts on Sonpura, Haharo and Badmahi rivers which are in Damodar river basin.

The rivers of Kotdwar’s tarai area in Pauri district, Uttarakhand continued to suffer from unsustainable dredging work undertaken by the state government and in September 2022 the base around pillars of a bridge on Sukhrua river suffered damages. Quoting a PWD official, the report further mentioned that the pillar base of four other bridges have been damaged by illegal excavation in recent time.

The February 2022 report described the grave situation of mining in Swan and Sutlej riverbeds posing threats to a couple of bridges, damaging the local roads and causing decline in groundwater table thus affecting farmers in scores of villages in Ropar district of Punjab. The report revealed that miners were using submersible pumps to extract sand from deep aquifers and department estimating Rs. 1.2 crore as repairing cost of high voltage power tower which was recently damaged by unabated mining in Sutlej river in Anandpur Sahib. 

The other bridge structures threatened by illegal riverbed mining operations in 2022 included Baluaha bridge on Kosi river in Saharsa district, Bihar; Kerta bridge on Mahan river in Surajpur district, Chhattisgarh (June 2022 reports), a bridge over Budhabalanga river in Mayurbhanj district, Odisha (March 2022 report).

Also the Rajakhat area in in Lower Bajali district, Assam has been suffering from illegal mining in Pahumara river and the illegal stone mining has been posing safety threat to the Modi Illakhar dam in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan which is probably filled by Dohan river.

Overall, the available media reports reveal that brazen riverbed mining activities have led to damage of a railways bridge in Himachal and found damaging the structures of five other railways bridges one each in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh (two of them are road cum railways bridges) in India in 2022.

Similarly, four road bridges have collapsed and at least structures of 22 other road bridges (including 6 in Jharkhand, 5 in Uttarakhand, 3 in J&K, 2 each in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab and 1 each in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh) have suffered significant damages or faced serious safety threats due to destructive riverbed mining practices which is also found threatening flood safety structures, local roads, farmlands, groundwater table, irrigation and potable water supply structures at scores of places across the country.

Overall, the crucial public infrastructures on and along the rivers in India particularly the roads and railways brides have been subjected to untimely collapse and damages by the excessive mechanized riverbed mining operations across the country which on one hand has been taking a toll on the foundation of these structures and on the other hand, the ferrying of riverbed minerals through heavy trucks has been weakening their superstructure. These incidents of infrastructure damages and looming threats listed above reveal the utter failures of respective departments and agencies in stopping the impacts of unlawful, unsustainable riverbed mining which has been causing revenue losses and destroying the essential public infrastructures, restoration of which cost crores of tax payers’ money.

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

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