Sand Mining

Riverbed Mining India 2021 Overview: Judiciary unable to fix Governance  

Feature Image:- Trucks seeking to transport sand stuck in Krishna river after flash floods, 300 people rescued (Image source: TNIE)

Rivers and riverine communities in India have been facing significant threats from large scale unsustainable sand mining operations. As part of our annual overview, SANDRP has compiled the prevailing scenario in the country over the year 2021 in first part. The second part has focused on some important policy and governance steps taken by various state governments. This third part tracks top ten judicial decisions and interventions in 2021 by various High Courts, National Green Tribunals (NGT) and Supreme Court.  

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Sand Mining

Riverbed Mining India 2021 Overview: Govts’ Changing Policies to Mine Revenues

(Feature image showing brazen rule violations in legally approved sand (morang) mining site along river Ken at Kanwara, Banda. Source: Ashish Sagar Dixit.)

This second part of riverbed sand mining overview 2021 by SANDRP highlights relevant reports from ten different states where governments have taken new policy, administrative decisions. The first part presenting prevailing riverbed mining scenario over past one year can be seen here. The third and final part of this series would cover the key judicial interventions.    

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Sand Mining

Riverbed Mining India 2021 Overview: Destruction of Rivers, Infrastructures, Governance

(Feature image:- Rampant sand mining damaging Yamuna’s ecology. Hridesh Joshi/Mongabay India)

The rivers and riverine communities have been going through whole range of adverse impacts on account of large scale riverbed mining operations. The illegal riverbed mining has become a pan India menace and there is hardly a river left, not being mined in the most unscientific manner.

The year 2021, despite being a pandemic year – when developmental activities and economy have faced slow down – has only seen escalation in mining related destruction. Be it threatened aquatic eco-system, precious surface and groundwater resources, costly public infrastructures or land and lives of villagers, farmers and manual miners; all have been paying a heavy price of relentless mining.

This first part of SANDRP’s Year End Overview of sand and riverbed mining sector puts together the top 10 stories from across the country showing how the mindless extraction of minor minerals has been causing major destruction to rivers and people. The following parts of the annual review would focus on state governments’ actions and judicial interventions regarding riverbed mining in 2021.

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Yamuna River

Yamuna Jayanti 2021: River needs flows; not dam, mining & pollution

Yamuna Jayanti the birthday of Yamuna river is celebrated every year on sixth day of summer Navratri. This year the day occurred on Sunday, April 18. On this occasion, Yamuna Nadi Mitra Mandlis [NMM (Friends of Yamuna River groups)] from all along the river through pics, videos share the latest updates on the issues affecting the river health and riverine community’s wellbeing. They also celebrate the river for its innumerable/ services and carry out activities to draw the attention of concerned governments and public at large towards gradual decline in river’s health.

This year due to Covid 19 pandemic and resultant restrictions, they could not organize public gatherings and undertake river related activities as usual, however they have shared some relevant pictures and videos depicting present status of River Yamuna which are presented here.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 25 Jan. 2021: UN warns about aging Dams & Floods in changing climate

A new UN report released on January 21, 2021 UN has warned the major big dam owning counties about the aging population of fast silting up dams in changing climate and urgent need to start working on decommissioning of uneconomical large dams. Among the few countries that UN has warned includes India with its third largest number of big dams. The added problem in India is the ill maintained and ill operated large dams that UN report did not look into. Indian dams are sanctioned based on highly under estimated siltation rates, there is practically no transparency and accountability in operation of Indian dams and dam almost every year get away with creating avoidable flood disasters. This latest problem is not just related to old dams, but even the newest celebrated ones like the Sardar Sarovar Dam as happened in Gujarat in late August-early Sept 2020. No legal regime exists in India for dam safety, either structural safety or operational safety. And in changing climate, with increasing frequency of higher intensity rainfall events, such risks are already increasing multi-fold.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 4 Jan 2021: Bangladesh declares Halda River as Fisheries Heritage

Bangladesh has declared the whole 81 km long Halda River, a tributary of Karnaphuli River in Chittagong in South East Bangladesh. The Halda river is also famous for breeding pure Indian carp. This is the only pure Indian carp breeding field of Bangladesh, perhaps in South Asia. This is a remarkable river conservation decision that has a lot of lessons for much bigger India where no river has been protected as fisheries heritage. This is great way to begin the first weekly DRP Bulletin of 2021 and we hope the Indian government, civil society and judiciary will take due note of this.

Controversy is never far away from any such river conservation efforts as is evident from the news about proposal for a Halda River based water supply project for industrial estate that has been opposed by the Fisheries ministry, water resources ministry, the River Conservation Commission, the Department of Environment and independent researchers.

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DRP News Bulletin

DRP NB 19 Oct 2020: India Rivers Week 2020: IS SAND MINING KILLING OUR RIVERS?

India Rivers Week (IRW) Organising Committee is excited to announce that the theme of the forthcoming annual event IRW 2020 will be: “Is Sand Mining Killing our Rivers?”. As part of IRW-2020, India Rivers Forum is organizing a series of Dialogues (digitally). This includes four regional dialogues focusing on North (Oct 31), South (Nov 7), West (Nov 12) and East (including North East: Nov 21)) India, and the final one (Nov 28) focusing on Sand Mining as a National issue.

Sand mining or mining of River Bed Material (RBM, including sand, gravel, boulders) has a huge impact on Rivers, in multiple ways: physical, ecological, livelihood impacts among others. While sand is also sourced from sources other than rivers, IRW 2020 will focus on sand sourced directly or indirectly from rivers. Sand is by definition, a key ingredient of the rivers. It provides habitat for multiple species of the biodiversity in the river. It provides both sub surface storage space and a mechanism to recharge the groundwater. The sand, along with silt, clay, pebbles and boulders are part of the river and are supposed to reach the deltas and provide a key existential medium in floodplain and deltas. To achieve that, sustaining river connectivities is very important.

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Dams · Sand Mining

Uttarakhand: Finally, Yamuna illegal bridge gone. But will govt learn?

Finally, Uttrakhand government on July 25, 2020 has removed illegal mining bridge on Yamuna river in Haripur, tehsil, Dehradun. The bridge across the Yamuna River was built by the illegal sand miners on culvert pipes in the last week of May 2020 hindering the river flows. It is not clear if the state government took any punitive or deterrent steps against those responsible, or did the government just quietly removed the bridge at its own expenses.

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Dams · Rivers

Travelling through Ramganga and Nayaar Rivers Basin

Fed by Dudhatoli forest range, the Ramganga West and Nayaar East and West in Uttarakhand are perennial rivers of immense scenic beauty amid emerging and looming threats. This photo blogs highlights some of the charms and concerns of these non-glacial rivers of the Ganga Basin.

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Dams · Sand Mining

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

Unsustainable, unscientific excavation of riverbed minerals has been having significant impact on river eco-system and riparian communities for past several years. Since 2016, to develop better understanding and highlight the problems SANDRP has been preparing state wise annual overview of riverbed minerals (RBM) mining activities. Having putting together year end round up for Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana states, this compilation attempts to cover prevailing situation in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) over the last one year. The link of 15 overviews in 2018 can be see here.

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