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Saving our rivers from illegal mining

Illegal river-bed mining and indiscriminate sand extraction and stone quarrying from rivers has become a major ecological menace across India.

illegal mining

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  24 Jan 2022 3:46 AM GMT

Illegal river-bed mining and indiscriminate sand extraction and stone quarrying from rivers has become a major ecological menace across India. An organization called South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SADRP), in a recent report said, illegal riverbed mining has become a pan-India menace and there is hardly a river left which has not being mined in the most unscientific and uncivilized manner. Assam too is no exception. This newspaper has reported on the front page in its Sunday edition, not a river, big or small, including the Brahmaputra has been spared. SADRP had in its previous year's report had not only highlighted how illegal sand mining on the Brahmaputra river bed has been posing serious threat to the eastern Dibrugarh Town Protection (DTP) dyke, but had also brought to light the fact that sand mafias and criminal gangs were allegedly hand-in-glove with a section of forest officials in the sand-mining activities, particularly in the Maijan, Mohanaghat and Jokai areas. It has been well-established that rampant, unscientific and illegal sand-mining and stone quarrying in river-beds has been seriously affecting the ecology of the rivers. Excessive sand mining can alter the river bed, change the course of the river, erode river banks, and lead to soil erosion. And, above all, it causes irreparable and irreversible damage to the living organisms in the rivers including fish and dolphins. What damage river-bed mining can cause to a river was best seen when an RCC bridge across the Dilli river had collapsed at Namrup a few years back. This newspaper on Sunday mentioned that machines and excavators are currently in use on the Kopili and Kolong rivers in Morigaon district to extract sand. In Golaghat, Sivasagar and Karbi Anglong districts, gangs have been using pumping machines and excavators to extract sand, which is supposedly banned by the forest department. A look at the Nona in Nalbari and the Bhogdoi in Jorhat on the other hand will show that there is hardly any semblance of a river left there, all because of illegal and rampant river-bed mining. There are allegations that while the illegal mining is done under protection of a section of unscrupulous politicians, forest officers often turn the other way or fail to apply the law of which they are the custodians. The forest minister, known for his honesty and upright stand, probably needs to take it up with the Chief Minister if he finds it difficult to rein in the politician-criminal-official nexuses which are out to wipe out the rivers of the state. One thing must be borne in mind – be it threatened aquatic ecosystem, precious surface and groundwater resources, costly public infrastructures or land and lives of villagers, farmers and manual miners – all have already begun paying a heavy price of mindless mining.

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