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India’s Rivers in Ruined Condition Due to Unchecked Illegal Sand Mining

Every river flowing in the country is being ruined due to this unsustainable practice and is resulting in an ecological imbalance.
Sand Mining

Newsclick Image by Nitesh Kumar

Illegal sand mining has become a common ‘uncurbed’ phenomenon in 23 states of India, according to a report by South Asia Network titled Illegal Sand Mining 2017: Rivers Continue To Lose Mindless Mining Battle. Every river flowing in the country is being ruined due to this unsustainable practice and is resulting in an ecological imbalance. Both central and state governments have remained as poor performers in tackling the emerging environmental crisis.

Some key developments in illegal sand mining in 2017, according to the report on Dams, Rivers and People are:

  • In 2017, Maharashtra accounted for almost 40 percent illegal mining in India, highest in the country. Between 2015-16, in Maharashtra alone, 30,979 cases on illegal sand mining were registered.

  • The illegal mining mafia, often associated with the construction industry, resulted in an increase in sand prices across the country making rural and urban housing unaffordable to civilians.

  • Rajasthan has the highest number of mine leases, of about 35,000 mines. Reportedly sand miners in the state are affected by Silicosis, a disease that causes inflammation and scarring of the lungs.

  • Among north-eastern states, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya have prevalent illegal sand mining.

  • Among the coastal states, Tamil Nadu has recorded the highest number of incidents of illegal beach sand mining.

  • In recent years, three journalists have been killed, allegedly by illegal sand mining mafia, one each in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. Also, it has been reported that a journalist was continuously threatened for reporting on the beach sand mining in Tamil Nadu.

  • Illegal sand mining from Morchapur Camp River in Jammu and Kashmir’s Bishnah tehsil has endangered two bridges in the area.

  • Across Ravi, Sutlej, Beas, Ghaggar rivers in Punjab, more than three cases of illegal sand mining cases are registered on daily basis.

  • In August 2017, two people were killed in accidents allegedly by a sand-laden truck in Telangana’s Sirisilla district. The accidents happened in a suspicious manner as several villagers in the district were opposing the illegal sand mining prevalent there.

  • About 100 bridges in Kerala are in bad shape due to indiscriminate river sand mining.

  • In Andhra Pradesh’s Yerpedu village, 14 persons died in an accident while protesting against illegal sand mining in April 2017.

Sand is an essential ‘minor mineral’ as defined under the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act). According to the Act, sand mining is regulated by the state governments. However, illegal sand mining has caused huge losses to the exchequers of respective state governments. According to another report, it has been estimated that the annual profits made by the illegal sand miners across India are Rs 1,611 crore.

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