Almost 8 lakh kg of sand has been illegally mined along a creek in Thane district, claim members of a local fishing community. The community pointed to alleged sand mining along a 12-km stretch from Ghodbunder Road to Kahler Creek Bridge.
According to the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), the level of sand even after dredging or mining should not fall below 3m. A Navi Mumbai-based non-profit organisation, Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishthan (SEAP), however, filed a complaint with the state government on Sunday claiming the level has dropped by 8m. Sand mining is a major environmental concern that threatens the existence of more than 70% of the world’s beaches, according to the United Nations. It contributes to major land erosion, compromises water security and affects climate, experts said.
“Illegal sand mining has destroyed the natural habitat across that stretch. I belong to the fishing community and am aware about the measures being taken to provide sand for construction purposes within the black market and it runs into crores of rupees,” said Nandkumar Pawar, head, SEAP.
“The violation has been going on for years in broad daylight, but owing to the lack of manpower in both the revenue department and the MMB, the cases are going undetected.”
Officials from the Konkan divisional commissioner’s (KDC) office confirmed the number of sand mining violations have increased significantly in the past five years.
Between April 2016 and March 31, 2017, the KDC received Rs404 crore in the form of fines in criminal cases and royalty submitted for illegal sand mining, stone quarrying, river mining and beach sand mining.
“The number clearly establishes that sand mining is a large-scale illegal industry in Maharashtra and the annual trend shows cases are only increasing,” said Bhausaheb Dangade, Konkan deputy commissioner (revenue).
“We are aware of the violations along Thane district and we will deploy a team of regional officers to survey the area,” he said.
In 2014, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), western bench, had banned sand mining in coastal regions of many states, including Maharashtra, identifying it was harming the environment.
In 2016, the ban was lifted in Maharashtra’s coastal districts of Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Raigad and Thane, after the state government promised the NGT it will ensure mining does not affect the environment.
However, various court orders, including the Bombay high court, Supreme Court and coastal regulation zone (CRZ) notifications make it clear sand mining using machines, under any circumstances, is completely prohibited across the country.