Sand dredging News
Sand mafia stealing beachfront beauty
4 June 2011, Times of India
A line of bullock carts carting sand away is a regular sight for visitors to Alibaug. But not many must have realized that the activity is gradually destroying the tourist spot. Kihim, a narrow beach in Alibaug that is a popular weekend getaway, has already lost much of its beauty. It is full of gaping holes because of indiscriminate sand mining. The story is the same at the Awas and Nandgaon beaches. “The mining is done in connivance with local authorities. I have even seen JCBs entering the beach,” says a banker who has a bungalow in Mandwa. “Soon, no sand will be left in the beaches. Instead, there will be piles of dirt washed ashore.”
Environmentalist Sumaira Abdulali, who was sometime ago attacked by the sand mining mafia for stopping trucks carrying sand from Alibaug, said: “The (country’s) western coast is endowed with such natural, sandy beaches. Abroad, they take so much care to preserve beaches. But we just neglect ours.”
National sailing champion Shakeel Kudroli, who runs a camp for children every summer in Alibaug, said: “Instead of promoting water sports, which would not only earn revenue, but also improve the health of Mumbaikars, the authorities with their apathy are letting the beaches get destroyed.”
Centre plans blanket ban on sand mining
20 June 2011, Times of India
KANPUR: Union minister of environment and forests Jairam Ramesh said on Sunday that his ministry would impose a blanket ban on sand mining across the country. Coming down heavily on the Uttarakhand government, Ramesh said the Centre would take action under the Environment Protection Act if the state did not stop illegal sand mining in the Ganga within three weeks.
He also said Swami Nigamanand, who died last Monday, had ended his first hunger strike on his assurance. “But it was very unfortunate that the state government did not pay heed to his demands for a ban on illegal sand mining on the Ganga riverbed in Haridwar,” he said.
Ban sand mining in state: Activists
21 June 2011, Times of India
MUMBAI: Environmentalists have urged Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh to ban sand mining across Maharashtra as a first to stop illegal sand mining and save the state’s creeks and coastline. This plea was made after Ramesh on Sunday said that his ministry would impose a blanket ban on sand mining across the country if the Uttarakhand government did not stop illegal sand mining on the banks of the Ganga within three weeks.
Environmentalists said there has been a threefold increase in illegal sand mining activity in the last few months, especially in coastal areas close to urban conglomerations where there is a huge demand for sand. The sand mafia groups indulge in dredging along the creeks at Thane, Navi Mumbai, Raigad and Ratnagiri with the blessings of local political leaders. “In Maharashtra, as in other parts of the country, local politicians control the businesses, forming mafias in collusion with administrative and police machinery,” Sumaira Abdulali, convener of Awaaz foundation, said. She said the mafia also resorts to violence when citizens try to stop illegal mining. Abdulali has now written to Ramesh to impose a ban in the state. Meanwhile, state environment secretary Valsa Nair Singh said that the state has begun initiatives to encourage the usage of alternative technologies for sand.
Sand Mine Auction ban cost govt. ` 800 cr last yr
15 February 2011, D.N.A.
In the past one year, the state government lost revenue to ` 800 crore, as it has not been able to auction sand mines and issue licences for mining. The Bombay high court lifted its stay on sand mining in October 2010. However, the government has not framed a policy to auction sand mines. Revenue department officials said that the government lost ` 800 crore, as the auctions did not take place last year. This has also led to an increase in illegal sand mining in the state.
A senior official said,”After the court disallowed auctioning of sand mines, there are no legal options left to meet the sand requirement. In the absence of auctioning, there is a wide gap between the demand and supply, resulting in individuals and groups using illegal mining.”
A senior cabinet minister in the Congress said,”The cabinet needs to revisit the sand mining problem. IT has to find a solution to the dwindling revenue and also to the issue of illegal sand miners in the state.”
Highly placed sources in the government said,”The sand mafia has managed to overpower the district administration because of restrictions on issuing licences through auctions.” In the past two months, there have been almost a dozen instances of illegal mining in the state. What has also hindered the administraton is that the sand mafia often has the patronage of local politicians or other influential people.
Senior BJP leader Madhav Bhandari said,”Images of illegal sand mining in home minister RR Patil’s constituency of Tasgaon in Sangli have been shown on TV news channels. It is diffivult to believe that illegal miners can take such extreme steps without his knowledge. IF he claims ignorance, it is all the more shocking.”
In the absence of auctioning of sand mines, major construction activities in the city are using sand imported from Pakistan, sources revealed. The sand, which is in abundance in Pakistan; is cheaper than that in India. If 4,000 kg of sand costs ` 1,000 to ` 1,200 in the domestic market, the same amount imported from Paistan costs ` 400 to ` 600.
‘SAND MINING IS ESENTIAL TO PREVENT FLOODS’
- Officials in the revenue dept argue it is incorrect that sand mining destroys river beds.
- On the contrary, sand extraction is essential along the sea shores and river beds.
- If sand is allowed to accumulate, it can cause floods that endanger many lives.
- They say some system should be in place to arrest the destruction of coastal zones.
- In response to petitions filed by Awaaz Foundation and the Sagar Shramik Hatpati Walu Utpadak Sahakari Sanstha Maryadit, the Bombay HC in 2009 imposed a ban on sand mining in CRZ areas.
- In Sept. 2010, it extended the ban to the rest of the state, citing environmental hazards. It directed the govt. to formulate a policy to takle the problems.
- In October 2010, it vacated the stay after expressing satisfaction over the govt’s new policy.
- It said excavation cannot exceed two metres from the surface of the river or creek.
SAND MINERS REMAIN UNFAZED
19 January 2011, Times of India
Illegal mining of sand along Mumbai and Maharashtra’s picturesque Konkan coast is threatening to destroy the fragile western coastline. This activity is being done in gross violation of the new coastal regulation norm that has banned sand mining along beaches and creeks. The Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) laid out the stricter norms on January 9 this year, to protect the country’s coastline, which is being rapidly destroyed by sand miners. The judiciary also took up the green cause and, last week, the Bombay high court directed the state government not to award any mining contract till the agencies obtain an environmental clearance.
In spite of these directives, port authorities and environmentalists say illegal mining is rampant in the state. Last week, the Ratnagiri port office seized 25 sand barges that were plying on Vashishti river without any voyage permission certificate. “The sand-carrying barges were intercepted as they tried to pass through the open sea channel without securing the mandatory voyage permission approval,’’ said V S Ajith Kumar port inspector, Dabhol port office.
Environmentalists said miners are using suction pumps to suck sand from creek areas along the Konkan coast and sand is being transported illegally along the stretch. “The result is that many of these creeks are turning into shallow pits and their marine eco-systems are becoming extinct,’’ said Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation, an environmental NGO.
She said mining is being done along the creek side of rivers which experiences inter-tidal activity. “It is high time the state constituted a competent authority that will clearly demarcate creeks and rivers along the Konkan coast. Miners get away with the illegal activity by saying that mining along rivers is allowed and then go on to mine the creek which has a rich residue of mud.’’
State environment secretary Valsa Nair Singh said the department is in the process of setting up a district level committee that will monitor the coast and creeks along the coastline in accordance with the new CRZ norms. “The committee will be headed by the district collector and tehsildar who will be made responsible for looking into these violations,’’ said Singh.
Mining is taking place along the Alibaug coast. Last week, beach property owners on the Nandgaon coast in Alibaug spotted some 40 bullocks carts carrying mud moving along the coast. A beach house owner said that when they tried to stop the miners, they insisted that they had the right to continue the activity.
“It has not only destroyed the beaches of Nandgaon but even trees near the beach have begun falling. Well water has turned murky and salty,’’ says Abdulali. D Stalin of Vanashakti, said large tracts of mangroves have been destroyed along the Thane creek.
DAMAGE TO ENVIRONMENT
Sand mining destroys the fragile coast and its most obvious fallout is soil erosion
Mining in the creek area destroys critical marine eco-system components such as mangroves and marine life
It destroys the creek as well, which is also a nesting ground for crocodiles and aquatic birds — and a natural rampart against floods
It increases salinity of water in the adjoining lakes, ponds and wells
PROCESS OF MINING
Tenders are called for mining in a particular locality and bidding is done though an auction
Successful bidders are allowed to dredge sand and pay a royalty to the revenue department
Dredgers stay put on the creek, dredge the sand and transport it on barges, which then move along the Konkan coast to reach Belapur and Kalyan
The sand is transported via trucks to various construction sites.
If mining is undertaken without environmental clearance
If it is done in CRZ areas such as creeks and beaches in violation of environmental laws
If it involves the use of suction pumps
If sand-carrying barges do not have a mandatory voyage permission certificate and pose a threat to security
Number of sand barges currently in operation: 150
Sand mafia fill 600 trucks a day
02 December 2010, Times of India
THANE: It’s business as usual for the sand dredging mafia in Thane district, in the absence of any auctioning of the 20-odd sandrich spots here. According to a rough estimate by revenue officials, they have been plundering natural resources by extracting close to 600 trucks of sand a day. The use of suction pumps and heavy machinery to pull out sand continues unabated, especially at Thakurli Bunder in Kalyan and at Mumbra Creek. Manual operations by divers who pull out sand using plastic buckets, on the other hand, is rampant in Vasai and Palghar talukas, district authorities told TOI. A glimpse of the ongoing loot of the creeks and rivers in Thane was evident last week when 94 sand-filled trucks were intercepted by revenue official Dinesh Paithankar after a night-long vigilance along the Ghodbunder Road to Vasai Naka stretch. The sand was being shifted to construction sites in Thane and Mumbai. “Each of the trucks was fined ` 16,400 for illegal sand dredging. They have no rights on the sand as there has been no auction of the creek spots and neither have they paid any royalty to the state for the excavation. On a single night, the state treasury was richer by ` 11.50 lakh from the fine amount,’’ Paithankar said.
Top revenue officials said the seizure of 94 trucks in a single night operation is a strong evidence that the sand mafia continues as usual, unmindful of the fact that they have no requisite sanctions nor have they made any royalty payment to the state for sand excavations. “It was just the tip of the iceberg. Our information is that more than 600 sand trucks could be doing this daily trip from the creeks in Palghar, Vasai, Kalyan, Bhiwandi and Thane talukas to various construction sites. We are losing precious revenue due to non-implementation of the new policy for auctioning of sand sites. In the last six months, since the Bombay high court imposed a ban on sand dredging, Thane district has lost revenue of up to ` 70 crore,’’ an senior district official told TOI. He added that the income from fines collected from sand trucks intercepted from April to November 2010 totalled up to ` 5.99 crore, as in the last eight months the officials caught 5,288 trucks.
“The district administration does not have manpower to man the highways and look out for the sand mafia. There is little cooperation from the police during raids and very often the concerned official has to face situations where the mafia openly pull out a revolver,’’ another state staffer said.
However, the officials were quick to blame higher-ups for the loot that has been going on of the state’s natural resources. “The state came up with a sand mining policy on October 25. It calls for auctioning of sand sites with permission of the concerned gram sabhas. The policy, however, gives greater powers to the sub-divisional officer to overrule any decision of the gram sabha. The new policy is nothing but old wine in new bottle.’’
‘Coastal agencies have no records of sand barges’
05 December 2010, Times of India
MUMBAI: In what can be called a blatant violation of security norms, the three nodal coastal authorities have said that they do not maintain records of sand barges that ply through inland waters, Mumbai coast and harbour. Numerous barges bring in sand dredged for the city’s booming construction industry from the inland waterways and creeks along Raigad and Ratnagiri coast and then sail along western coast to reach Colaba. The barges move through the water channel between the naval dockyard and JNPT and enter the Panvel creek. Sand is then offloaded at Belapur and transported to construction sites across Thane and Mumbai. The Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB), Directorate-General of Shipping (DGS) and the Coast Guard passed the buck. These responses were provided under the Right to Information (RTI) Act after specific queries were raised on the number of licences issued to barges carrying sand from Raigad district to Mumbai and Navi Mumbai along with the name of owners, conditions for operations as well as the number of inspections deployed to check if any contraband material was being smuggled into the jetty. “The agencies stated that this issue was not in their jurisdiction. The MMB did not respond for several months till a second appeal was filed,” Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation, who filed the RTI query, said. The DGS said that the MMB is responsible for licensing, regulating or monitoring of sand barges, while the maritime board said they had no role in monitoring the movement of sand barges. A senior MMB official said they provided NoCs to the sand barges after the letters of approval came from the district collectorate. “It is up to the district collectors to maintain the records,” the officer said. The Coast Guard had intercepted barges that were violating norms. “We sent the details to MMB but no action has been taken,” an official said.
Cabinet approves sand mining policy
21 October 2010, Hindustan Times
MUMBAI: The construction industry, which was reeling under the effects of a ban on sand mining, can expect some relief with the state cabinet approving the sand mining policy on Wednesday. The Bombay High Court had recently banned sand mining and asked the state to submit a policy on it, saying the absence of safeguards was leading to severe environment degradation along river beds. “We hope the ban is lifted after the policy is presented in court,” said Narayan Rane, revenue minister, who headed the sub-committee of ministers that drafted the policy. The state has diluted the powers of the gram panchayat to reject sand auctions in notified zones on river beds. Gram panchayats have been given a month to clear such auctions, failing which their approval will be taken for granted. If the gram panchayat does not want a sand auction in its area, the company can appeal to the sub-divisional officer, who will take the final decision. “Only one-third of 4,500 gram panchayats had allowed sand auctions. Such an attitude could only have increased the scarcity,’’ Rane said. The state will request the high court to lift the ban in the next hearing saying the policy was drafted after considering the concerns of the locals, the environment, the state’s finance sand industry demands. The government expects revenue ofRs1, 400 crore from giving sand mining licences this year. It has decided to allot 6 per cent of this to improve amenities in the village that allows sand mining. The policy also allows the state to charge a2per cent green cess from the licence holder. The revenue from this will be used for conserving the village where sand mining takes place. As an environmental safeguard, the use of suction pumps in sand mining has been banned and will be allowed only in exceptional circumstances. Sand mining has been banned on river beds where there has been considerable soil erosion leaving only five to six feet of sand. It has also been banned in villages facing water scarcity. The policy is silent on measures to control the sand mafia or on dangers of soil erosion due to the removal of too much sand. The environment department’s recommendation to not mine sand from a particular spot for more than three consecutive years has also been left out of the policy.
Court refuses to lift ban on sand mining
22 October 2010, Hindustan Times
MUMBAI: The state’s hopes that the ban on sand mining would be lifted, were dashed when the Bombay High Court refused to vacate the stay on excavation.
WAIT GETSLONGER High court to hear the matter on Monday and give its decision
The Maharashtra government’s hopes that the ban on sand mining would be lifted after it announced a policy on the activity on Wednesday, were dashed when the Bombay High Court refused to vacate the stay on excavation. The matter came up for hearing on Thursday before a division bench of Justice BH Marlapalle and Justice UD Salvi. Ravi Kadam, advocate general, placed the noting of the cabinet meeting, in which the draft sand mining policy was approved, before the court. The note also urged the judges to vacate the stay imposed a month ago. The court declined to consider the request after Kadam said it will take a few days to come out with a specific notification promulgating the draft policy because the procedure requires that the minutes of the meeting be confirmed. The bench will hear the matter on Monday. Coal India had requested the court to vacate the stay saying its subsidiary in Vidharbha, Western Coal Fields, was on the verge of closure because of the ban. An organisation from Bhiwandi also joined them in seeking an exemption from the ban. The court refused to vacate the stay saying it will consider the plea on Monday. The high court had banned sand mining across the state on September 23 because the government failed to come out with a comprehensive policy on sand mining although the court had first expressed a need for it a decade ago. The court was hearing a petition filed by a group of manual sand miners requesting that the state be directed not to issue tenders or permits to excavate sand at a particular spot on Savitri River. The court gave the state time twice but it failed to come out with a comprehensive policy. The bench, referring to Wednesday’s policy, lauded the provision authorising gram panchayats to decide whether to allow sand excavation within their areas. The court suggested the appellate authority in the matter comprise more than one member and should also include a geologist to ensure the decisions are taken on a scientific basis.
GREENS NOT IMPRESSED WITH POLICY
22 October 2010, Hindustan Times
PUNE: After assessing the scientific, technical and administrative aspects of the Western Ghats, a two-member technical team from the International Union for Conservation for Nature (IUCN) has hinted at the need to prevent the mountain range from becoming a commercial and tourism spot. The team, comprising experts Wendy Strahmand Brian Furze, visited the picturesque Kas plateau in Satara district on Thursday morning to assess a proposal to grant the Western Ghats the world heritage status. From Maharashtra, four sites – the Kas plateau, Koyna, and Radhanagari and Chandoli wildlife sanctuaries–are on the list of the proposed clusters. The IUCN team will visit the Koyna wildlife sanctuary on Friday. They have already visited Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala. In an informal chat with media persons at the Kas plateau, Strahm said: “The locals must come forward to protect the uniqueness of this region. This area can be protected only if windmills and hotels are not allowed.” Strahm’s remarks assume significance as the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) and the Maharashtra Economic Development Council (MEDC) are planning to develop the plateau as a tourist spot Environmentalists are up in the arms against the move, saying this would endanger the seasonal and rare species of plants and animals there. Strahm said that the ministry of environment and forest had suggested 39 sites in the Western Ghats to be included in world heritage list and they had visited 35 sites. Thee team will submit their report to UNESCO in November. The final decision on inclusion of Western Ghat in world heritage list will be taken in November 2011. The government, which is trying to get the world heritage tag for the dense green zone, has also paved way for an environment horror. Recently, the state government sanctioned 49 mining leases to excavate iron and bauxite ores in the eco-sensitive Sindhudurg district. Sindhudurg has the highest green cover in Maharashtra and the government’s decision will result in large-scale destruction of flora and fauna.
Sand mining can resume, says HC
27 October 2010, Hindustan Times
MUMBAI: Construction activity in the state that had come to a stop because of the Bombay High Court’s stay on sand excavation, can resume soon. The court withdrew the blanket ban on sand mining on Tuesday and endorsed the comprehensive policy a draft of which the state government placed before the court last week. “The policy covers almost all the substantial issues and provides adequate measures to ensure that no damage is caused to the rivers, creeks and the environment in the process of sand excavation,” a division bench of Justice BH Marlapalle and Justice UD Salvi said. “The policy has plugged the loopholes and also seeks to make government machinery accountable for its implementation.” The court restricted the excavation of sand from rivers and creeks to the depth of two metres. The bench lauded the policy’s initiative to empower village gram panchayats to decide whether to allow sand mining in their areas or not, and allocation of apart of the revenue from the environment cess levied on mining companies towards development work in these villages. The bench said the use of mechanical devices for excavating sand is an issue the state should consider instead of leaving it to the collector. On September 23,the court had imposed blanket ban on sand mining across the state for want of a comprehensive policy although the court had first expressed the need for a policy a decade ago. The court was irked by the fact that sand mining permits were being issued without considering environmental degradation and deterioration of river beds. The state government started working on the policy only after the court imposed a blanket ban. The ban hampered construction because sand was not available in the market to meet the demand. The state cabinet finally approved a new policy on October 20. Thenewpolicybansthepracticeofissuing permits and licences and says sand mining contracts will be granted only through competitive bidding. The state hopes this will ensure it does not lose revenue due to excessive exploitation of licences. The new policy also provides for some penal action if mining contractors breach contract terms. Ravi Kadam, advocate general, had submitted a copy of a government resolution on the policy to the court on Monday
High court lifts state ban on sand extraction
27 October 2010, Times of India
MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Tuesday lifted its ban on sand mining in Maharashtra and approved the government’s new policy on sand excavation. A division bench of Justice B H Marlapalle and Justice U D Salvi directed that excavation for sand must be limited to two metres from the surface of the river or creek floor. The new policy also has some stringent clauses government officers who fail to implement the norms will face disciplinary and penal action. Further, the sand mafia will also face criminal action sand mining contractors who attack state revenue officials can be booked under MCOCA. Those who excavate sand without authorization will be booked under various sections of the IPC, the state said. The new policy states that a collector should issue sand mining licenses only through public auctions and a transparent bidding process. The state has made it mandatory for contractors to obtain permission from the gram panchayat or the local body for sand mining and extraction in the rivers and creeks. In areas where fishermen extract sand manually, bids have to be submitted by local fishermen’s organizations. The court has asked the state to take a final call on the use of mechanical devices to extract sand. Last month, the court had imposed a ban on sand mining across the state over the government's failure to implement rules to check the rampant excavation of sand. The judges had repeatedly remarked that a balance has to be struck between earning revenue and safeguarding the environment. Advocate-general Ravi Kadam had urged the court to lift the ban, saying it had hit construction projects hard.
16 arrested for illegal sand mining in Virar
31 October 2010, Times of India
MUMBAI: Three days after the Bombay high court vacated the monthlong ban on sand mining in the state, the Virar police along with the revenue department of the Thane collectorate swooped down on illegal sand excavation at Vaitarna creek on Friday night. A total of 16 persons were arrested for illegal sand dredging. The police also seized 31 suction pumps and 16 boats used to carry the sand. The Bombay high court had banned sand mining earlier this month, following a writ petition filed by the Sagar Shramik Hatpati Walu Utpadak Sahakari Sanstha Maryadit. On October 26, the ban was lifted by the court after the state government brought out a policy for sand excavation. When the raid was conducted, loading and unloading of sand was on in full swing. The court, while lifting the ban, had observed that excavation cannot exceed 2 m from the surface of the ‘floor, river, or creek’. The 16 boats seized were excavating sand from the middle of the creek, said the police. The policy on excavation entails registration of vehicles transporting the sand. A committee will survey the area before a sand mining contract is granted. Also, it would be the government and not the collector who would take a decision on the use of machines. Police said that the trucks and boats seized did not have the permission to excavate sand. The boats belonged to local fishermen. Sand mining mafia has been operating with impunity in the Mira-Bhayander and Vasai-Virar regions of Thane district.