Sand and gravels forming riverbed materials hold immense ecological value for living and healthy rivers systems. The inbuilt water filtration capacity and absorbing characteristic of the minor minerals plays critical functions in groundwater recharge and in ensuring lean season flow in the rivers. However for over two decades the brazen illegal and mechanized mining activities across the country have been irreversibly affecting the rivers and riverbank communities. The state of Punjab is among leading states where state government has failed[I] to ensure sustainable sand mining practices. The 2019 overview the state shows strong clout of political parties over the illegal sand mining operations without sharing a thought for the rivers and public.
All through the year 2019 illegal sand mining was rampant in Goa rivers despite judicial interventions. The Mandovi, Tiracal and Chapora rivers were particularly seen bearing adverse impact of unsustainable excavation. Amid worsening scenario the riverbank communities and civil societies have been making remarkable efforts to protect the rivers in the state. The work of Rainbow Warriors NGO and civil society groups who have formed the Goa River Sand Protectors network to monitor the illegal sand mining activities have truly raised hopes and shown way forward to all concerned fighting old battle against growing riverbed mining menace.
The following is an excellent example of how early flood warnings from Bhutan, shared with downstream Assam communities using WhatsApp messages, saves lives. This needs to be highlighted and word spread to implement it in all flood prone areas on Urgent basis, including in trans-boundary areas, as this is an example of the same.
In the last few weeks of June 2019, a series of WhatsApp messages (sent via unofficial channels) were sent from Bhutan to India to warn “cross-border friends” downstream of the Aai, Saralbhanga and Manas rivers about cloud-bursts, swollen rivers and possible flash floods affecting people in the Indian state of Assam.
We have presented through separate articles, overview of sand mining issues of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana-Andhra Pradesh, East India and North East India, in addition to one on murders, violence, threats and infrastructure damages due to illegal sand mining. This compilation tries to throw some light on the sand mining related issue of 2018 in remaining states with the help available media reports.
Telangana Sand Mining Incidents
Illegal miners let scot free Allegations of illegal red sand mining surfaced at Dasugadd Tanda area barely 15 km from the Sangareddy district headquarters. Officials have seized vehicles and imposed a fine but the offenders were allowed to go scot-free. Officials reason that the accused were let off since they belonged to Lambada community and any action against them would have created unnecessary trouble for the administration. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/deep-pits-found-illegal-mining-of-red-sand-alleged/article22277688.ece (26 Dec. 2017)
Agents profiteering from illegal sale of sand A two-part YouTube video report titled, “How to do sand booking online and make 2000 Per Day” tells viewers how one could earn anywhere between Rs 500 and Rs 2000 for each booking by striking a deal with lorry drivers. The report revealed that, there are agents who are still profiteering from illegal sale of sand. The govt website called ‘sand.telangana.gov.in’ mandates that those who want sand need to do the booking from one of the govt operated stockyards across the state.
The YouTube video with over 60,000 views explains how one could book sand by striking a deal with any of the lorry drivers approved by the Road Transport Authority. The website lists out the phone numbers of the drivers, and says that a deal could be cut with them to resell this sand at a higher rate. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/it-easy-game-telangana-govt-s-sand-policy-video-surfaces-startling-claims-84513 (10 July 2018)
Brave Journalists exposes the Nexus supporting illegal sand mining in Tamil Nadu
Reporter honoured for exposing illegal mining On January 4, 2019, Sandhya Ravishankar was conferred Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for her reportage on illegal beach sand mining in Tamil Nadu. https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/news18-editor-m-gunasekaran-becomes-1st-tamil-journalist-bag-ramnath-goenka-award-94522 (5 Jan. 2019)
Journalist stalked after reports on sand mafia Sandhya Ravishankar, Chennai-based journalist alleges multiple attempts to stalk and intimidate her in the recent past after she wrote a series of reports on the sand mafia. She is also fighting defamation cases. https://www.firstpost.com/india/chennai-based-journalist-sandhya-ravishankar-alleges-stalking-intimidation-after-reports-on-sand-mining-mafia-5295131.html (1 Oct. 2018)
Explosive reports on illegal beach sand mining in Tamil Nadu by Sandhya Ravi Shankar: Her report first person singular on Jan 31, 2017 provides blow by blow account of how the nexus involved in illegal sand mining was exposed. (https://thewire.in/culture/beach-sand-cartel, https://thewire.in/tag/beach-sand-mining)
On November 16, 2017, the Supreme Court (SC) of India, prohibited 82 large lease holders from mining sand and stone activities in absence of scientific replenishment study. The ban continued all through the year of 2018 and so were the incidents of illegal sand mining and violent attacks on police officials.
The ban has reportedly hampered some development projects. The prices of sand has increased. Meanwhile the mining department is seen making efforts in exploring Manufactured Sand (M-Sand) as an alternative though it seems there is not much success as yet.
Good to see NGT rejecting the flawed Groundwater notification dated Dec 12, 2018 from CGWA that was also critiqued by SANDRP: https://sandrp.in/2018/12/31/groundwater-governance-why-dec-12-2018-cgwa-notification-would-be-disastrous/. However, NGT should have asked an independent panel to formulate the policy for sustainable groundwater use, rather than a committee of the same government persons. Besides, there is also need for restructuring of currently totally ineffective CGWA and make it COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT of government.
In a shocking revelation, Jay Mazoomaar in this Indian Express report exposes how Wildlife Institute of India not only accepted consultancies from hydropower companies, but also diluted the mandate for the studies for given by statutory bodies like NGT, NBWL and FAC, but also provided compromised reports catering to the interests of the hydropower developers, thus trying to clear the way for the two controversial mega hydropower projects, one each in Dibang and Lohit river basins in Arunachal Pradesh. https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/arunachal-pradesh/wildlife-institute-all-for-hydel-projects-in-arunachal-pradeshs-tiger-zone-5499656/
In case of the 3097 MW Etalin project being developed by Jindal and Arunachal Pradesh govt, the IE report says: “the WII was asked by the Ministry (MoEF) to assess the feasibility of the plan that requires 1,166 hectares of forestland in the valley. The Ministry’s move followed a recommendation from its Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) to conduct an environment impact assessment study. Instead, the WII initiated a study to find how the project’s impact on wildlife can be minimised”. Thus instead of doing the mandated scientific impact assessment, the WII initiated a study to minimise the project’s impact.
On Dec 12, 2018, The government introduced the Dam Safety Bill amid din in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday even as Biju Janata Dal group leader Bhartruhari Mahtab questioned the legislative competence of the House on the matter.
The Bill provides for “surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of specified dams for prevention of dam failure related disasters and to provide for institutional mechanism to ensure their safe functioning”. There are over 5,200 large dams in the country and about 450 are under construction. There are also thousands of medium and small dams whose safety remains a matter of concern due to lack of legal and institutional safeguards. https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/parliament-winter-session-govt-introduces-dam-safety-bill-5490911/ (13Dec.2018) Continue reading “DRP News Bulletin 17 December 2018: Dam Safety Bill Introduced, Tamil Nadu, Odisha Oppose; Why No Role For Independent Experts?”