Nobody mining sand in the Yamuna and Hindon rivers in Gautam Budh Nagar district has a licence to do so, officials said. The district mining department has not issued a single contract since March, when the Samajwadi Party government came to power in Uttar Pradesh.
The department has only been auctioning seized sand to contractors. “The government had stopped awarding contracts because of disputes over the auctioning of mining land in the Yamuna. It later planned to award sand mining contracts through e-tenders to maintain transparency and accountability. But that proposal is pending. We just auction sand that we seize in our random drives,” said a mining department official, requesting anonymity.
“Mining was legal in only three patches on the Yamuna riverbed till May this year. These three sites were auctioned in 2011,” said a Gautam Budh Nagar district official. Mining is banned in Hindon river as well. Environmentalists and activists alleged that despite a ban, illegal mining continues unabated.
“Sand mafia has a free way in Gautam Budh Nagar district. It kept exploiting the Yamuna and Hindon riverbeds through illegal mining,” said Gaurav Kumar Bansal, an environmentalist.
“Several local leaders from both the BSP and the SP are involved in sand mining. Earlier, BSP supporters were ruling the sand mining business. Now it is the turn of SP workers’ to rake in the moolah,” said Akash Vashishtha, an activist.
The Noida irrigation department had repeatedly written to the Gautam Budh Nagar district magistrate that illegal mining may damage the river bank, exposing the area to floods.
“Mining has damaged Yamuna’s ecology. We have written several letters to the district administration to curb mining. What else can we do?” said RS Yadav executive engineer, UP irrigation department. Gautam Budh Nagar district magistrate refused to comment on the issue.
A year ago, the state’s geology and mining department had planned to auction sand mining contracts through e-tenders.
Strangely, Gautam Budh Nagar district was left out.