Illegal quarrying of sand from the Bhangi choe bed on the outskirts of the city has never quite stopped even despite a ban by the Punjab and Haryana high court.
However, of late, the mining mafia has started eroding the fragile banks of the choe, causing panic among people living in its vicinity. Extensive damage has been done to the banks, but the industries and the drainage departments are passing the buck to each other.
The choe bed is full of sand and earth which, if cleared, would undoubtedly reduce the threat to flood-prone area that is why people did not complain much when the illegal quarrying went on in the middle of the choe, but now the illegal operators have taken to digging up the vulnerable points.
"It is easier to escape from the periphery in the wake of a raid," said a trolley driver, who claimed he had suspended the sand business for the time being due to court orders.
"The drainage department spent lakhs on strengthening the banks. Thousands of trees were planted by the forest department and NGOs to stop soil erosion, but the mining mafia is undoing all such efforts. If not stopped, the ring road too would be at risk," said Varun Saini of Narain Nagar.
NGO Pooran Swaraj Sankalp Society's patron Sanjiv Talwar said he had made numerous complaints to the authorities concerned, but they did not act. "It only indicates their collusion with the illegal miners," he alleged.
Drainage department executive engineer VK Gupta said he had written a letter to the general manager, industries, in this regard and joint raids would be conducted after Dussehra.
General manager Balwinder Singh revealed that nine cases were recently registered against the illegal miners, who were caught lifting sand from the Bhangi choe near Bassi Ghulam Hussain.
"I do not claim that we have stopped illegal mining completely, but we are doing our best to check violations. Even midnight raids are conducted but we cannot be present everywhere all the time. The choe bed is so vast that there always remains a scope for the violators to give a slip to the raiding party," he said.
Balwinder revealed that of the 21 B-grade khuds (5-50 acres), environment clearance for 14 had been received, but due to court orders, auction could not be held.