The Chambal river flowing through Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, is endowed with rich and diverse flora and fauna. It is also home to a critically endangered species of crocodile – the gharial. Apart from this, the Chambal basin is also endowed with superior quality sand. Sand mining in the region has been banned by the government for the protection of Gharial and preservation of ecological diversity.
This is not the story of Chambal region only. Mafia network is also active in NCR region that digs deep into the river beds of Yamuna and Hindon river in Gautam Budh Nagar. They evade royalties and heedlessly flout whatever norms exist. There are no licensed miners and there are areas where there is a blanket ban on sand mining. Yet, almost all of NOIDA’s construction projects depend on stolen sand. Large scale construction resulted by industrialisation and housing has led to gradually rising demand of sand. According to sources, 9 lakh tonnes of sand is extracted in a year and monthly turnover is estimated to be around 100 crores.
If I talk about Madhya Pradesh, illegal sand mining is openly taking place in Narmada, Tapti, Betwa, Ken, Navej and many more rivers. Dhar, Barwani, Alirajpur, Morena, Khandwa and Hoshangabad are districts where cases of criminal activities by the Mafia network are registered on a daily basis.
It is needless to say that sand mining is detrimental to the environment. Large-scale extraction of streambed materials, mining and dredging below the existing streambed, and the alteration of channel bed form and shape, leads to bank erosion, channel slope increase and change in channel morphology. It might also lead to the weakening of nearby land structures, bridges etc. Mining and dredging activities and uncontrolled dumping of will cause deteriorated water quality for downstream users. It is equally harmful to aquatic life. Removal of channel substrate, clearance of vegetation and stockpiling on the streambed negatively affect the habitats of aquatic species.
Having said that, I agree that a blanket ban on sand mining can’t be done. The construction sector is one of the largest employer in the country. A blanket ban will not only slow down the employment generation but will hamper the economic growth as well. States where sand mining is legalised receive a good amount of revenues.
In this whole picture, government and police administration has completely failed to deal with the issue and tackle the menace of mafia network. Unfortunately, bureaucracy becomes the victim in the trinity of Mafia-Government-Police.
A three-member panel headed by Morena’s District Collector has recently legalised sand mining in Sabalgarh, Jaura and Porsa region. However, legalising sand mining might not be a sustainable and long term solution. There is a dire need of central government intervention in this issue existing across-the-board in order to preserve the ecological diversity and achieve the goal of sustainable development.