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Beware, sand mining could cause gas pipeline explosion near highway in Mumbai’s suburb

If sand miners hit the bedrock, the land could collapse and cause an explosion

mumbai Updated: Jun 27, 2017 10:09 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
sand mining,gas pipeline explosion,Thane-Bhiwandi highway
Debris are being dumped only 15 metres from drinking water and gas pipelines in the area.(HT Photo)

A gas pipeline on the Thane-Bhiwandi highway is at a risk of exploding, owing to illegal sand excavation taking place on a 10-acre wetland nearby, according to Mumbai-based NGO Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishthan (SEAP).

The NGO said sand was being excavated from the spot using suction pumps. “Such activities render the area vulnerable to fatal accidents. People are dredging sand from random spots. If they hit the bedrock, the land could collapse and cause an explosion,” said Nandkumar Pawar, head, SEAP.

“Dumping debris on wetlands is dangerous as it is an ecologically sensitive area and there is a water body nearby. Debris were dumped only 15 metres from drinking water and gas pipelines,” said Pawar.

Wetlands stabilise the coastline, control erosion and provide a habitat conducive for plant and animal species. They also prevent floods and filter groundwater.

The Bombay high court banned all reclamation and construction on wetlands in 2014, after NGO Vanashakti filed a public interest litigation. However, the rampant destruction of mangrove trees continues. SEAP members said that over the past four years, wetlands were reclaimed at Kasheli, Kahler, Balkum and Anjur Diva, and complaints to authorities fell on deaf ears.

Kasheli and Kahler villages in Thane district are situated in low-lying areas, where water logging and floods are common during the monsoon, said Pawar. “In those villages, there are 195 acres of wetlands reserved for community fishing areas. These areas have been reclaimed by builders, locals and the grampanchayat members, who illegally construct houses there,” he said.

Officials from the Thane collector’s office said they had received the complaint. “Our revenue and circle officers visited the spot on Monday. Prima-facie, a violation was observed. However, a report is being prepared and will be shared with the state mangrove cell to confirm the extent of wetland,” said a senior official from the district collector’s office. “However, we did not observe any sand excavation at the site,” he said.

First Published: Apr 17, 2017 15:02 IST