Illegal sand mining on Kihim Beach near Mumbai eroding it, says NGO
Illegal sand mining at Kihim Beach, near Alibaug, has been going on unchecked for a decade and is leading to soil erosion and loss of tree cover, according to environmentalists.
City-based environmental organisation Awaaz Foundation on Monday filed a complaint with the Konkan commissioner and district administration of Raigad in this regard and attached week-old pictures of bullock carts transporting sand away from the beach.
“The entire beach is eroded with at least 10 decade-old trees uprooted across different ends,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation, which has filed six complaints in three years against illegal sand mining. “Despite repeated complaints, bullock carts continue to excavate sand in large quantities illegally during low tide, which has led to a drop in the level of sand, and the beach is now flat.”
Maharashtra recorded 26,628 cases of illegal mining last year, the highest across the country, according to data from the Ministry of Mines. This year, data up to June showed 2,751 cases. Between 2013 and 2018, 2,228 people were booked for illegal mining, one court case was filed, and 163,366 vehicles were seized. The fines collected for illegal mining over six years was ₹36,502 lakh.
Sand mining is a major environmental concern which may threaten the existence of over 70% of the world’s beaches, and also contribute to major land erosion, compromising water security, affecting climate and many more such fatal calamities, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
In 2014, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had banned sand mining in coastal regions of many states, including Maharashtra, identifying that it was harming the environment. In 2016, the ban was lifted in Maharashtra’s coastal districts of Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Raigad and Thane, after the state government promised the NGT that it will ensure that mining will not affect the environment.
An official from the Raigad district collector’s office said circle officers had taken action at the site but offenders continue to return. “Sand is being used for construction in this region. We have confiscated bullock carts and all manual dredging equipment from this area several times this year but due to a shortage of manpower, we are unable to keep round the clock vigilance,” said Jagdish Patil, Konkan commissioner.
“However, we will be deputing local villagers to alert us about sand mining and in turn issue rewards. We will issue directions to the district collector to track and take action against alleged violators,” Patil said.