In 2019 overview, we found at least three people had died in Telangana due to illegal sand mining related incidents amid growing number of cases of illicit excavation of riverbeds. The state govt was seen laying stress on technological solutions to curb illegal sand mining and even reportedly had taken significant steps towards manufacturing and use of M-sand as a viable alternative, while its viability and impacts on environment during production remain to be fully studied and understood. https://sandrp.in/2019/02/26/sand-mining-2018-telangana-and-andhra-pradesh/ Here we track the key developments in the state since then.
[Feature Image: Vital resource; Nearly 80% of the State’s output of river sand comes from quarries on the Cauvery and Coleroon rivers in Karur and Tiruchi districts. File photo Credit: M. Moorthy/The Hindu]
The 2019 overview for Tamil Nadu showed that the illegal sand mining incidents, protests, govt actions and court orders kept taking place concurrently. It revealed involvement of govt official in illegal sand extraction activities. In fact, sand mining was reportedly among reason leading to collapse of 185 year old regulator on Kollidam river. Also one officials and two citizens lost their lives in illegal mining related incidents.
Sandhya Ravi Shankar who revealed the gross violations of norms and irregularities in beach sand mining faced defamation cases, threats and stalking. Govt efforts to promote of M-sand & imported sand as alternative to river sand didn’t help.
Feature image: Extraction of sand from the banks of the Tunga near Chibbalagudde in Tirthahalli taluk posing a threat to the fish sanctuary that hosts 27 species of fish. (The Hindu)
2019 Karnataka sand mining overview showed that the incidents of illegal sand mining were on the rise, state was reportedly consuming around 70 MT (Million Tons) sand annually while the govt was able to produce 30 MT. The govt was losing about Rs 200 crore to illegal sand mining, while about 29,000 cases of illegal stone quarrying and sand mining were detected in past 3 years. Towards the end of 2018, the govt was seen working on 4 separate mining policies for sand, granite, building material and stone crushers to stop the revenue losses.
There were discussions in govt circle promoting M-Sand and importing sand from Malaysia. M-Sand was being produced in 18 districts of state. However there was no clarity on its quality and usage. MSIL had imported 8000 T of sand and sold half of it. Despite facing sand dearth, the govt in Sept. 2018 decided to send imported sand to Kerala. About 0.15 MT Malaysian sand was stuck at two ports.
Feature image: Officials of the irrigation department visited the breached Tiware dam near Chiplun in Ratnagiri, in July 2019. (Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)
The report of the 10 member committee headed by Shri Nandkumar Vadnere, appointed by the Govt of Maharashtra in Aug 2019 was submitted on May 28, 2020. The report titled “A report on Floods 2019 (Krishna Sub-Basin): Experts Study Committee: Analysis, Causes, Remedies” from all accounts is a major let down as is apparent from the way one of the members felt so humiliated that he had to resign: he was not provided basic information to do justice to the Terms of Reference, his chapters were unilaterally removed from the draft report by the chairman, under pressure from higher ups. The report is actually an attempt to show, by hook or by crook that dams were not responsible for the Krishna basin floods of Aug 2019. Almost exactly the same way CWC came out with a shockingly unscientific, contradictory report about Aug 2018 Kerala floods to prove that dams had no role. The report did not even ask if the any of the dams followed the rule curve, though it made recommendation that rule curves should be followed! The story keeps repeating for each of the dozens of instances in recent years. The report of the Tiware dam disaster in Maharashtra in July 2019 has been submitted in Feb 2020, but is not yet in public domain. These few recent instances show how strong a strangle hold the dam lobby has over the official water institutions and governance in India. The Dam Safety bill now before the Parliament will not help as it has no provision to remove or even loosen this stranglehold, there is no place for independent oversight in the bill. Without an accountable reservoir operation policy, legal and institutional paradigm there is no possibility of freedom from dam induced floods.
Latest and disturbing images taken on May 27, 2020 display brazen riverbed mining in Yamuna river in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. The images related to Vikas Nagar stretch of river show that miners have not only created a temporary bridge across the riverbed to transport mined material but also using heavy machines to dig the riverbed. In the process the river flow has been impounded at the location.
Sources reveal that active river channel is being compromised by in-stream mining operations. It is learnt that the mining is being done hardly 300 meters from Haripur bridge connecting Vikas Nagar to Kalsi.
Following large scale illegal mining incidents in Yamuna, Chambal, Ken, Betwa and many other rivers in Uttar Pradesh, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in past few years has issued significant orders. Towards the end of 2018, the Central Board of Investigation (CBI) had also started inquiry into illegal mining case in Betwa river in Hamirpur district which involved the then Mining Minister Gyatri Prajapati and the district magistrate among others. The raids regarding the issue kept taking place throughout 2019. So far the case has not reached the conclusion.
With the help of available media & other reports SANDRP tracks the illegal sand mining incidents of Uttar Pradesh during past one and half years. The 2018 sand mining overview in UP can be seen here.
In April May 2020, local people and media reports have highlighted riverbed mining practices going on in the Yamuna river impacting river eco-system and riparian communities in gross violation of lock down norms during the Covid 19 crisis.
The first case is reported from Yamuna Nagar district, Haryana on April 30, 2020 by Times of India, where miners had created a bund across the river in the Gumthala-Jathlana area impending the natural flow of the river.
The hilly state of Uttarakhand also known as land of rivers has seen increase in riverbed quarrying operations over past decade. With establishment of stone crushers industry, scale and intensity of riverbed minerals (RBM) excavation has further increased in past few years. So has become the impact on villagers and rivers.
However, the government lacks monitoring, transparency, accountability in checking the unscientific, unauthorized RBM as is evident from a review of Uttarakhand Mining and Geology Department (M&G) website and media reports. In fact the state government has neither conducted replenishment study nor formed District Mineral Foundation (DMF), suggesting that it is hand in gloves in organized loot of RBMs.
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.
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.