Illegal Riverbed Mining: The Harm Spreads To Fisheries Industry

(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) Illegal Riverbed mining in Sukhnag

The construction company-NKC Project Pvt Ltd
which was involved in illegal riverbed mining in Shali Ganga at Panzan village in Chadoora around 2021 has now shifted its operation to Sukhnag river which is around 30 kms from Panzan. In September 2022, the National Green Tribunal- NGT banned mining in Shali Ganga after this author moved a formal application against NKC Projects Pvt Ltd in 2021. It took me almost 1 year to persuade the NGT that NKC company was using heavy machinery during mining which isn't allowed. My counsel produced the GPS
photos which proved that heavy earthmovers , JCBs and L&T cranes were being used by the company and in fact the said company tried to lie before the tribunal that they were not using machines. In-fact they challenged the NGT order in Supreme Court of India, which vacated the stay but then they again had to undertake the riverbed mining manually
using labourers. The company preferred to move to another location Sukhnag river, Sail Beerwah.

For more than a year, NKC Projects Pvt Ltd has been taking out boulders and other riverbed material – at least 100 dumpsters ( big trucks) per day in Sail Village Beerwah in Budgam. No Environmental Clearance -EC has been obtained by this company from J&K State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority-SEIAA which is mandatory as per the guidelines of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change -MoEF.

In Budgam only two streams have been e-auctioned for riverbed mining, Shali Ganga and Doodh Ganga, and the said work has to be done manually as per the specific and standard guidelines of J&K State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority- JKSEIAA. The work of this authority in J&K has been assigned by MoEF Govt of India
the Department of Environment Ecology and Remote Sensing but this department is also not able to do justice as they are not taking action against the violators due to a dearth of staff and other logistical issues.
In Shali Ganga and Doodh Ganga, the use of heavy machines has been curbed after NGT's intervention last year but in places like Sail, Beerwah as well as other districts, the loot and plunder is rampant. Moreover, the government officials are unmoved

Minor Mineral
Concession Rules 2016

In order to control illegal mining, the J&K Govt in 2016 came up with a new set of rules called the Jammu and Kashmir Minor Mineral Concession, Storage and Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules 2016. In an order dated March 19, 2019 the Industries and Commerce Department decided to allot mineral blocks through e-auctions. District-level e-auction committees were constituted, headed by District Magistrates. Senior officers and engineers from the PWD, Irrigation and Flood Control, Geology and Mining and Finance departments are members of these committees. The Department of Geology and Mining has also moved from open auctions to e-auctions. So far, more than 173 mineral blocks across Jammu and Kashmir have been notified for the e-auctioning but Sukhnag river doesn't figure in that list at all. Before 2016 the Geology and Mining Department would only take royalty from the people involved in the mining trade including truck drivers carrying the riverbed material (RBM) like sand, boulders,
nallah bajri
etc. Infact, the allotments made through e-auction also prohibit contractors
from using heavy machinery. The Minor Mineral Concession Rules 2016 say that riverbed mining is to be done manually or maximum use of semi mechanised machines is allowed. The Earth Movers , JCBs and L&T cranes are highly mechanised machines and their use is completely illegal. This has been authenticated by several SC court orders, NGT orders, High Court judgements and Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines 2016. These guidelines were passed by none other than the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).


Heavy riverbed mining
leads to the increase of velocity of the flowing water, thereby eventually eroding the riverbeds.
The sand aquifer helps in recharging the water table and its
progressive depletion in the river is accompanied by the lowering of the water table in the nearby areas. Sand depletion in the streambed or riverbeds
causes rivers to deepen. This enlarges the river mouths and coastal inlets.

The impact of illegal riverbed mining is not only causing depletion in the water table, drying up of springs or defacing of the river landscape but this is impacting our fisheries industry as well. The livelihood of fishermen living around Rambiara in Shopian and Pulwama, Doodh Ganga in Budgam and Srinagar or Vaishav in Kulgam district has been impacted. Now the fish farms which get water supply from the nearby rivers and streams are also under threat. Irony is that the companies and contractors who are involved in illegal riverbed mining are not reprimanded or taken to task by Govt officers. It is only on the orders of NGT that authorities are acting against illegal riverbed mining and in majority of the areas the administration including police are acting as mute spectators. The case of Rayees is before us. The authorities have neither arrested anyone nor has an FIR been filed till date against the perpetrators of the crime that led to the death of 2500 fish. Is any one listening?

Views expressed in the article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

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