Illegal sand mining poses threat to Uri’s oldest power project
Rampant illegal sand mining being taken up in large scale, on Jhelum River poses a grave threat to 105MW Lower Jhelum Hydroelectric Project (LJHP), officials of the electricity department said on Sunday.
“The mafia is extracting the sand near the project which is posing a serious threat to the power project and the dam as well. It can lead to catastrophic damage to the project anytime,” said Abdul Rashid Bhat, executive engineer of the project.
He said though they have blocked the passage leading to the project, the mining still continues on the riverbed. “We have taken up the issue with the district administration in Baramulla,” he said.
In October last year, the department took up the matter with Baramulla deputy commissioner following which the DC issued the orders of banning the illegal extraction of sand and directed the police and flood control department to keep a close vigil on the illegal activities there.
In December last year, sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) Uri constituted a three-member committee to investigate illegal sand mining and extraction of riverbed material from three villages of Uri falling close to the project after he received the complaints from the locals.
In February, the SDM again issued a letter to Tehsildar Boniyar saying they have seized the extracted sand from the miners. “Taking the advantage of the dark, the sand mafia is illegally lifting the seized material from the site,” reads the letter, a copy of which is with the Hindustan Times.
“Taking the advantage of Covid-19, the mafia took away the seized sand worth ₹15 lakh from the spot,” said an official of local administration, requesting anonymity.
The geology and mining department in Baramulla estimated the cost of the seized 8,000 metric tonne sand to be ₹22 lakh.
Boniyar Tehsildar Imran Ahmad Bhat who was to probe the matter said that the miners moved court. “The case was then handed over to the floods control department,” he said.
The assistant executive officer of the department of floods control in Uri Bashir Ahmad Shah said, “Two FIRs have been registered against the sand mafia.”
However, Uri SDM Reyaz Ahmad Malik denied commenting on the issue.
LJHP was commissioned in 1979 and is one of the oldest power projects of Uri that supplies the electricity to the entire valley and states like Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.