Why sand mining in Chambal is not right

Updated on Sep 01, 2022 08:36 PM IST

While the area opened for sand mining is around half a per cent of NCWS’s total size, the decision could, environmentalists fear, effectively legalise illegal sand mining

Sand mining leads to river erosion, shrinking deltas, land-use changes, air pollution, salinisation of groundwater reserves, and threatens freshwater fisheries and biodiversity. (FILE PHOTO) PREMIUM
Sand mining leads to river erosion, shrinking deltas, land-use changes, air pollution, salinisation of groundwater reserves, and threatens freshwater fisheries and biodiversity. (FILE PHOTO)
ByHT Editorial

In yet another assault on India’s already shrinking natural heritage, a part of the National Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary (NCWS), which spans Uttar Pradesh (UP), Madhya Pradesh (MP), and Rajasthan, will be opened up for sand mining. According to a report in this paper, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has allowed sand mining on 207.05 hectares of the NCWS that fall in MP’s Morena district. While the area opened for sand mining is around half a per cent of NCWS’s total size, the decision could, environmentalists fear, effectively legalise illegal sand mining. In addition, various lobbies may use the NBWL order as a precedent to pressure central and state governments to open up other protected areas for extractive industries. The NBWL order also goes against the Gwalior bench of the MP high court ruling that banned sand mining in 2006 for safeguarding gharials, Indian skimmers, and other animal species that make the sanctuary their home.

While the MP government, which proposed the denotification of 292.39 hectares of NCWS in March, said that this step would help curb illegal sand mining and make sand available for people, the fact is that sand mining leads to river erosion, shrinking deltas, land-use changes, air pollution, salinisation of groundwater reserves, and threatens freshwater fisheries and biodiversity. Besides, the view that legal mining will stop illegal mining and that the state will manage to keep a hawk-eye on illicit mining doesn’t elicit much confidence. There are reports that unlawful sand mining is rampant in these areas, and the population of dolphins and gharials is plummeting. In the face of evidence that the state has fallen short in safeguarding protected areas, is there any sense in opening such regions for further exploitation?

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