After environment campaigner Awaaz Foundation said that sand was being illegally mined from creeks and rivers in Raigad district, the Konkan divisional commissioners’ office said that they were preparing an action plan with the help of district collectors to stop it.
Awaaz Foundation, in a letter to the state government, said that suction pumps are being used to collect sand from rivers near Mahad and Dharamtar creek, while sand is being taken from beaches at Kihim, near Alibaug. “Pictures from the sites show that sand is being pulled out using machines, and being stored in heaps, then transported in large quantities,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation.
In 2014, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had banned sand mining in coastal regions in many states, including Maharashtra, saying that it was damaging natural ecosystems. In 2016, the ban was lifted in Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Raigad and Thane, after the state government promised the NGT that it will ensure that the mining does not damage the environment.
However, various court orders, including the Bombay high court, Supreme Court, and a Coastal Regulation Zones notification make it clear that beach sand mining is prohibited under any circumstances, across the country.
Officials from the Konkan divisional commissioners’ office said that a meeting with collectors from Raigad, Palghar, Thane and Ratnagiri was called on Monday. “It has been brought to our notice that illegal sand mining and transportation is being carried out illegally in places in Maharashtra. It was decided on Monday that stringent action will be taken against this,” said Bhausaheb Dangade, Konkan deputy commissioner (revenue).
According to the action plan, Dangade said that 12 sites have been identified at Raigad, 10 at Ratnagiri, five at Palghar and a few locations in Thane. “Collectors have been directed to install toll booths along major highways close to these sites. Vehicles carrying sand or equipment used for illegal mining will be confiscated with immediate effect. Additionally, an undercover team of police and home guards will be deployed at these sites to nab the violators when they are mining,” said Dangade adding, “We expect an impact in the next 15 days and if any issues are observed, district collectors will be taken to task.”
Abdulali added that apart from a ground level action plan, there needs to be a tracking mechanism ensuring that the sand used for construction is legally procured sand. “The state government is deciding on an action plan after years of environmental damage. Sand used for construction at megacities has to be traced back to the source and how it is being transported,” said Abdulali. “At the same time, there is a need for a much stronger policy decision for the subject that includes the immediate implementation of recycling debris rather than extracting more sand.”
Geologists said that sand mining was disrupting the natural flow of rivers by creating an uneven bed. “If excessive mining is done close to bridges, it loosens the foundation. If such illegal activities continue, it may lead to bridge collapses or inundation,” said V Subramanyan, geologist and former head of department, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-B) Bombay.
Why should you care?
Sand mining threatens beaches, and contributes to land erosion, compromising water security, affecting climate and more such fatal calamities.
In the past
HT had reported in May 2016 that extensive sand mining between Kihim and Awas beach, north of Alibaug has led to drastic changes in topography of the area that led to 70% decline in sand at these beaches. The mechanical dredging work had led to soil erosion, uprooting of more than 15 trees and a drop of nearly 10 feet in the level of the beach.