For past two years, large scale mechanized and illegal mining is happening in Yamuna River in Haryana state. The miners have created deep pits across the riverbed in Yamuna Nagar, Karnal, Panipat and Sonipat districts. Year 2019 has been a deficit monsoon year in Yamuna basin and the river had started shrinking unusually during October month. The rampant riverbed excavation has further robbed it of lean season flows. This detailed overview of river sand mining in Haryana in 2019 shows the severe impact of unsustainable and illegal mining practices on the river and villagers due to insensitive government and inefficient administration.
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.
One expects that River sand mining issues will be minimal in monsoon, with riverbeds flooded, but that is far from the case, as we can see from this week’s bulletin. Recent news include the positive story of Dakshin Kannada deputy commissioner being remembered for curbing illegal sand mining; Institute of Engineers demanding curb in sand mining around the 90 year old Krishna Raj Sagar dam on Cauvery considering its safety; in Tamil Nadu, the most dangerous place in the context of sand mining, there is the news of police forcing activists to apologise; While the TN minister is in denial mode about illegal sand mining round Chennai; firing between sand mafia and police in Rajasthan leading to two deaths and several injuries; in MP, a video is in circulation showing police negotiation with sand mafia; new sand mining policies in several states including Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar and in Delhi the DJB has written to NGT to take steps to curb illegal sand mining downstream of Hathnikund barrage. And there is more.
That’s a lot of news during monsoon on River Sand mining. Unfortunately, there is no light at the end of the sandy tunnel. There is no effective policy or action on the horizon either from the states, centre or judiciary. It seems a lot more focused work is required on this issue.
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.
Karnataka is one of the leading states to witness the devastating effects of rampant sand mining. Between 2015 and 2018, the state has officially registered 20,779 cases of illegal sand mining, and 9,599 FIRs.
The state govt is receiving approximately Rs 150 crore per year as royalty from legitimate sand mining. As per estimates, the state govt is losing around Rs 200 crore per year due to illegal sand mining.
According to cement manufacturing companies’ data, around 18 million tonnes (MT) of cement is sold in the state every year. The cement-sand mix ratio is either 1:4 or 1:6 (four or six bags of sand per cement bag). Even if 1:4 ratio is taken, 72 MT of sand is approximately used in the state every year.
The official data from the Department of Mines and Geology shows that from the blocks permitted by it, a total quantity of 30 MT of sand (from all types of blocks – river sand, patta land, blocks allocated to govt departments, and manufactured sand) is produced in the state. Thus, there is a difference of at least 42 MT sand compared to the cement sold in the state.
Madhya Pradesh is one of the worse affected states as far as illegal sand mining is concerned. Over the years unsustainable sand mining has caused great damage to Narmada and its tributaries. The Ken, Betwa, Sindh, Chambal and Son rivers which join Yamuna and Ganga rivers has also been facing severe threats from ongoing illegal sand extraction.
Even in 2018, there was no significant improvement in this regard. There were attacks on govt officials and media persons for exposing illegal sand mining. The state govt failed to stop the illegal sand extraction.
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.
SANDRP has been preparing and presenting the annual overview of sand mining sector for past three years. The issue of illegal sand mining is growing significantly adversely impacting the rivers and dependent communities. The respective governments are also under pressure to regulate the riverbed mining. There is noticeable increase in court cases and judicial interventions.
This year, we are presenting the overview in a state wise format for some key states where the issues are more intense. We start with Punjab state.
In the first part we see, how under business as usual scenario, incidences of illegal riverbed mining going on unabated across the country. Reports suggest that Uttar Pardesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Goa have emerged leading states affected by illegal sand mining.
In 2017, countless reports have exposed politicians-officials-mafia nexus responsible behind mindless plundering of scarce natural resource in open violations of norms. Similarly, throughout the year, there have been several violent attacks on villagers, activists, government officials by sand mafia. In a whole more than 26 people are killed in incidences involving illegal extraction of sand.
In this detailed second part, SANDRP presents account of various measures taken by different State Governments and Central Government to check the unsustainable riverbed mining practices. The third and concluding part would cover legal interventions initiated by respective Judicial bodies to reign in the unsustainable, unlawful sand mining activities across India.
Undoubtedly sand is essential part of river ecosystem. Like flow and fish it helps rivers stay healthy. It’s critical for ground water recharge, replenishes the nutrients in moving water, supplies lean season flow to rivers and provides habitat to numerous forms of aquatic and riparian fauna.
Despite all this, illegal and unsustainable mining of sand and boulders is widespread across the country taking heavy toll on the lifelines of modern civilization. Continuing our effort to assess the scale of threat and level of devastation illegal sand mining is posing to our rivers, SANDRP presents State wise 2017 year end review on the issue. This is third straight year that we are doing this after 2015 and 2016. The subsequent reports would cover Governments’ role and Judicial interventions to reign in the unsustainable, unlawful sand mining activities across India.