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Beas Tributary Changes Course due to Illegal Sand Mining

The Mol Khud tributary feeds several drinking water supply schemes and irrigation channels in lower areas of Palampur.
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Representational Image. Image Courtesy:  Wikimedia Commons

Rampant illegal mining along the Beas has forced one of its tributaries to change its course, made the riverbed unstable and harmed Mol Khud, which feeds several drinking water supply schemes and irrigation channels in lower areas of Palampur.

According to a report in The Tribune, Paplaha, Dhirh and Bhilana are the worst-affected areas with hundreds of deep and wide pits on the riverbed formed due to unabated extraction of sand and stone.

Illegal sand miners have diverted Mol Khud’s flow to extract stones using JCB machines, villagers alleged. Despite repeated complaints at CM’s helpline number 1100, the villagers said, no action has been taken. Hundreds of acres of fertile land in the area have turned barren because of illegal mining, they further alleged.

“They use JCB machines to extract sand and stones out of khuds, resulting in deep trenches in the river. The water level has decreased as the diggers continue to extract stone round the clock,” said Ashwani Gautam and Varun Bhuria, two environmentalists fighting illegal miners in Thural, Jaisinghpur and Sullah to protect the environment and biodiversity of the area.

In 2010, the ministry of environment, forest and climate change of India issued guidelines on sand mining which were upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012. According to the guidelines, sand mining cannot be allowed beyond a depth of three metres alongside the riverbed and digging should be stopped the moment water is visible in the pit.

Palampur district mining officer Rajiv Kalia in response to a WhatsApp message from The Tribune said that he would look into the matter adding that the state government had “leased out some part of Mol Khud to a stone crusher owner while mining was totally banned in the remaining part. He claimed to have directed his field staff to visit the spot and stop illegal mining.

Last December, The Tribune reported that illegal mining is rampant in Palampur, Sullah and Jaisinghpur. Dozens of trucks, tippers, and JCB machines can be seen on the Palampur-Sujanpur and the Alampur-Jaisinghpur highways along the Beas and the Neugal river extracting sand and stones.

Illegal mining near Alampur has also endangered a strategic bridge over the Beas connecting Hamirpur and Kangra districts despite the state’s 2015 mining policy prohibiting mining 200 metres downwards and upwards of bridges in the state.

Besides, a large amount of dust coming out from stone crushers in Jaisinghpur subdivision has made the lives of villagers, especially children and the elderly, miserable with hundreds of them suffering from various respiratory and pulmonary diseases. 

A village pradhan told The Tribune that more than 50 persons in his village are suffering from a chronic chest infection which is damaging their lungs. 

Residents said that they are unable to sleep and children find it difficult to study because of the sound of crushers and heavy machinery. 

Illegal mining along Neugal is done at night due to protests by villagers during the day.

District mining officer Rajiv Kalia claimed that steps are being taken to check illegal mining in Beas, Neugal, and Mandh Khud with field staff directed to deal firmly with miners.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) had recently said that the removal of minerals from riverbeds is posing a threat to the flow of rivers, forests on the banks and the environment. The NGT banned sand mining on riverbeds across the country without the environment ministry’s clearance.

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