Illegal sand mining spreads to Mumbai, 72 cases reported but no arrests yet
The district collector collected fines worth Rs3.4 crore in criminal cases and from royalty submitted for mining sand illegally.Updated: Apr 13, 2017 09:10 IST
Illegal sand mining is no longer prevalent only in Thane and Raigad districts. Suburban Mumbai reported 72 cases of sand mining between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017 with first-information-reports (FIRs) filed in some cases but no arrests, revealed data from the suburban collector’s office.
The district collector collected fines worth Rs3.4 crore in criminal cases and from royalty submitted for mining sand illegally.
Sand mining was reported from Versova, Madh, Malad-Marve, Gorai areas while seizures were carried out by revenue officers from Kurla, Borivli and Andheri.
“Three types of violations have been observed over the past year: illegal excavation using machines, illegal transportation and illegal storage. While cases of excavation are very few, our officers have come across numerous instances where sand is being brought into the city without permissions,” said Deependra Singh Kushwa, Mumbai suburban collector. He added, “Vehicles transporting sand have been seized and, drivers and owners fined. Also, sand was found being illegal stored at various open plots within the suburbs, which were also seized.”
Versova residents said that they had spotted sand being excavated near the jetty on five occasions this year. “At around 6am on most weekends, we have spotted people at the jetty pulling out sand from boats using suction pipes. They come to the jetty from the creek areas and have been doing so for years,” said Versova resident Afroz Shah. “As soon as they spot us cleaning the beach, they disperse immediately.”
In 2014, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), western bench, had banned sand mining in coastal regions of many states, including Maharashtra, saying it was harming the environment. In 2016, the ban was lifted in coastal districts, after the state government promised the NGT that it would ensure that mining does not affect the environment. However, various court orders including Bombay high court, Supreme Court and coastal regulation zone (CRZ) notifications make it clear that sand mining using machines is prohibited across the country.
Officials from the Konkan divisional commissioner’s office said that sand was being brought to Mumbai using boats that go undetected. “While cases of excavation are very few, Mumbai is one of the hubs to store sand in the state,” said Bhausaheb Dangade, Konkan deputy commissioner (revenue). “The lack of manpower from the Maharashtra Maritime Board or vigilance from the local police is the reason why such violations are increasing.”
Meanwhile, environmental activists said that the state government need pay more attention to stop illegal sand mining. “It is frightening to know that we are unable to safeguard beaches within city limits. Since there’s hardly any manpower, some areas are inaccessible and locals are involved in this. We need to have a better system and use advanced technology to track the violators,” said Sumaira Abdulali, convener, Awaaz Foundation.
Sand mining is a major environmental concern which threatens over 70% of the world’s beaches, according to the United Nations. It leads to land erosion, damage to coastal vegetation and destroys habitation and farmland.