Illegal sand miners in India make ₹1,611-cr profit every year: Australian film
India is facing a serious environmental crisis with rampant illegal sand mining fetching Rs1,611 crore in profits every year, a documentary by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) claimed.
The United Nations had stated that illegal sand mining is a major environmental concern which may threaten the existence of over 70% of the world’s beaches. It contributes to land erosion, compromising water security, affecting climate and many more fatal calamities.
The 20-minute documentary ‘Line in the Sand’ was screened in Mumbai by Awaaz Foundation on Saturday that highlights the illegal sand mining trade, the mafia involved and identified areas such as Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, where regular sand excavation using machines is carried out.
“We came across life-threatening situations while shooting the documentary as majority of sand is excavated during the night,” said Savitri Chaudhury, one of the directors of the documentary. “While there is hardly any data on the amount of sand already excavated from India, we arrived at the $250 million (Rs1,611-crore) figure after speaking to various central and state government bodies.”
Three activists, Sumaira Abdulali from Awaaz Foundation in Mumbai, Aakash Chauhan and Brijmohan Yadav, both from Uttar Pradesh have been featured in the film. While Abdulali and Yadav were attacked during their crackdown on sand mining excavation operations at Mahad and Bundelkhand, Chauhan alleged that his father and brother were murdered by the sand mafia.
“My father and brother had both spent their lives trying to expose the sand mafia operating at areas close to Noida. The police refused to help me because they too are involved with them,” said Chauhan. “My life is now dedicated to tracking the sand mafia operating out of UP, and I will not rest until they are behind bars.”
Yadav’s petition is currently pending at the Allahabad high court after he was mercilessly beaten up by eight persons involved in the trade. While the accused were booked, no one was arrested. “About 1,000 trucks leave the Bundelkhand region daily carrying sand worth Rs35,000 each. While the police and the politicians get their share, we are the ones attacked because we speak the truth,” he said.
Saturday’s screening was followed by a panel discussion where alternatives of sand mining were discussed with members of the state environment department, state pollution control board, documentary film makers and activists.
Abdulali, who was attacked by a mob in 2010 near Bankot Creek in Raigad during a site visit to check sand mining, said that the government must take steps to stop the menace endangering environment and livelihood of lakhs of people. “Mining of sand is considered a necessity under current situation where there are few alternatives available. However, little effort is made to find and implement such alternatives,” she said. “No efforts to map available sand stocks and match them with requirements for building purposes are being done by the state or the centre.”
In a bid to safeguard the environment, the audience, comprising students and senior academics, activists and concerned citizens signed a memorandum to the Prime Minister to create alternatives to sand for construction in the country.
Praveen Gedam, transport commissioner and former district collector at Solapur — who developed the sand mining approval and tracking system adopted across India as the National Sustainable Sand Mining guidelines — addressed Saturday’s panel by stating that Maharashtra was the only state in India to have specialised mechanism to tackle sand mining with the help of geologists in every district.
“The idea is to cordon off an area where sand mining is rampant and only provide one entry and exit. CCTVs need to be installed at these sites to monitor the movement of trucks. Squads under the district collector then need to be deployed at the site with the police to take down violators,” said Gedam. His whose efforts led to the district administration filing 425 first information reports (FIRs) against the sand mafia cartel in 2013. The district earned revenue in the form of fines at Rs78 crore in 2013 as compared to Rs22 crore in 2012.