(Feature Image:In Sindhudurg, the pollution is already shrinking mangrove cover, taking away a source of shelter and food, shrinking hunting grounds and forcing marine species further outside their territories in search of fish, Sindhudurg coastline had the potential to become an International tourism destination. Pratik Chorge/HT PHOTO)
The beaches, creeks, rivers, mangroves in the state of Maharashtra all are bearing the brunt of unsustainable mining, amid several attempts by government, judiciary and civil societies to keep a tab on illegal sand mining activities. As the detailed compilation by SANDRP highlights that mining menace warrants immediate actions from government before the threats turns into a disaster.
Most of the Indian states have been facing multiple environmental issues on account of unsustainable riverbed mining activities. Mechanized excavation, nexus between politicians-administration-mafia, violent attacks on people have become common features of the illegal sand trade across the country. The rampant mining of natural resource is also severely impacting rivers, wildlife and groundwater table. And the state of Gujarat is no exception to all this as shows the year end overview.
Seeing large scale impacts of unsustainable riverbed sand mining, the Supreme Court (SC) of India had banned sand mining activities in the state on Nov. 16, 2017. The apex court had also asked the 82 lease holders to get fresh permission of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) after submission of replenishment study.
Following this, the state government had formed a committee to look into the issue. All through 2018 the ban remained[I]. The status has not changed even as the year 2019 is ending. Meanwhile cases of illegal sand mining are continuously taking place in across the state. So are the police actions as routine process, some political statements, and few court orders. Like last year, this annual round up by SANDRP compiles, all these and other relevant developments on the issue from the state of Rajasthan.
Yamuna River in Yamuna Nagar district of Haryana is facing severe threat from mechanized and unsustainable stone and sand mining happening at large scale in sheer violation of existing mining rules and guidelines and the responsible authorities are deliberately overlooking the gravity of the issue.
During a field visit to the mining sites, we found scores of heavy trucks plying on riverbed ferrying precious sand. Poclain and JCB machines in large numbers were seen busy digging dip pits in the riverbed. The active course of the river was blocked and even changed. In fact river was nowhere in sight as its entire course was converted in deep stagnant water pools caused by non-stop mechanized mining. Machines were digging the sand and piling it on floodplain and nearby farm lands.
Ken River, the lifeline of Bundelkhand region is again succumbing to illegal sand mining on a massive scale. The 427 km long river originates from agricultural lands in Mamar hills of Katni district, Madhya Pradesh. It flows through Panna district and merges into Yamuna river as right bank tributary at Cheela Ghat in Banda district of Uttar Pradesh.
For first about 50 km from origin the river remains seasonal and gets strength once the tributary streams and rivers like Aloni, Gurne, Patne, Sonar, Midhasan, Shyamari, Banne, Khudar, Kutne, Urmil, Kail successively falls into it as the river flows through plateau area of Vindhya hill range in Central India.
Illegal sand mining operations continue to take the lives of innocent people in India. So far there have been dozens of violent incidents and tragic accidents involving illegal sand mining activities.
The latest in the series is death of 3 kids in two different Indian states on a single day of July 7, 2019. The first incident killing two adolescents is reported from Yamuna Nagar district of Haryana state. As per the reports, five children from Kanalsi village had gone to the river for bathing in the evening of July 7.
(Feature image by Nishant Panwar, Vikas Nagar, shows Yamuna River in upper reaches in Jan. 2019)
On April 11, 2019, is the birthday of Yamuna river. The Yamuna Jayanti comes every year on the sixth day of ‘Chaitra’ (summer) Navratra. The Kapat (door) of famous Yamnotri shrine would be opened this year on May 7 for Char Dham Yatra.
In April-May 2019 India will vote to elect 17th Lok Sabha or Parliament. On April 11, the 1st of the 7 polling days, the home state of Yamuna river, Uttrakhand and the districts of Western Uttar Pradesh through which Yamuna river flows, will vote.
The two other states heavily dependent and Yamuna river, Haryana and Delhi will see voting on May 12. The district Mathura, Agra, Etawa, Kanpur, Hamirpur, Fatehpur and Allahabad of Uttar Pradesh located along Yamuna river will witness voting from second (April 18) to sixth phase on May 12.
The NDA government come to power in May 2014 promising clean Ganga and Yamuna. The thousands of devotees of Mathura and residents of Agra were especially convinced of a promise of clean flowing Yamuna river. People were also hopeful that the government of the same party, BJP, in centre and in key basin states of Yamuna (Uttarakhand, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh) would bring a change in the situation. But over the five years, things have only deteriorated further. In fact, under the present government apart from dams and pollution a illegal sand mining has emerged as equally dangerous threat for the Yamuna rivers from upper reaches through middle and lower stretches.
On the occasion of Yamuna Jayanti, the Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandli (YNMM) a voluntary group of villagers and concerned; established along the length of Yamuna by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan is highlighting the issues affecting the Yamuna river and riparian communities which have remained unaddressed during past five years and none of the political parties even now have remotely focused on these. They also warn that ignoring the problems of Yamuna and dependent community will soon affect every state and dependent people in a significant way apart from endangering the river itself.
Across the country, many government officials were killed while taking action against illegal sand extraction in 2018. So were the lethal attacks on reporters and citizens for exposing illegalities and objecting to illegal mining activities. Many innocent people lost lives in accidents related to illegal sand mining related incidents which could have been avoided. This compilation of sand mining related incidents also highlights how illegal sand mining was damaging the infrastructure providing essential services.
Uttrakhand A 115 years old British era bridge on Tons river in Birpur, Dehradun collapsed on Dec. 28 reportedly due to overloaded sand trucks. Two people were killed in the accident. The single lane bridge was damaged during 2013 floods and opened for public after repair.
According to data from the Ministry of Mines, Maharashtra state recorded 26,628 cases of illegal mining in 2017, the highest across the country. In 2018, data up to June showed 2,751 cases. Between 2013 and 2018, 2,228 people were booked for illegal mining, one court case was filed, and 163,366 vehicles were seized. The fines collected for illegal mining over 6 years was ₹ 365 Crores.
As per another report, Maharashtra has highest number of cases of non-compliance of sustainable sand mining management guidelines, 2016. According to data submitted in the Lok Sabha, the ministry received 7 major complaints regarding non-compliance in 2017, out of which 6 were from Maharashtra and one from Himachal Pradesh. The highest number of illegal mining instances have been recorded in the state as per data by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change. It recorded around 139,700 illegal mining cases between 2013 and 2017.
Kerala – the God’s own country is in strong grip of unsustainable sand mining which has been happening for decades in the rivers and coastal areas of the state. The state has suffered hugely in 2004 Tsunami and 2018 Floods which, as several reports explain, were aggravated by illegal sand extraction. Yet nothing seems to have changed. Apart from violation of environmental norms, the extraction of finite mineral is going on, ignoring the nature’s warnings.