(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.
Disturbed by mining, man jumps in front of CM convoyOne can just imagine the distress and anguish building against State Govt inactions over illegal sand mining in common people. In an attempt to draw the state govt’s attention towards the illegal sand mining, a man on Dec. 29, 2017 jumped in front of CM Yogi Adityanath’s convoy in Lucknow.
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.
In the first part we have seen, countless reports from 2017 revealing unabated riverbed mining, exposing some politicians-officials-mafia nexus and showing no let up in violent attacks on many villagers, activists, government officials possibly by sand mafia across the country.
In the second part of Sand Mining Review of 2017, reports have highlighted several State Governments failing to effectively reign in unsustainable sand mining business despite sometimes prompt administrative actions. Interestingly, while several States want the Centre to form a uniform mechanism, the Central Government on the contrary has proposed further dilution of mining laws.
Now, here is third and concluding part of this review, highlighting judicial interventions on the issue.
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.