GUWAHATI: Illegal sand extraction from rivers across the State continues unabated. Extracting sand from the rivers in a rampant, unscientific and illegal manner is 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. Most importantly, it affects the living organisms in the rivers like fish. In Assam, a section of contractors are doing river mining using pumping machines and excavators, which is completely against the Forest Act. According to guidelines, only manual mining must be done as it offers employment opportunities and does not affect the river bed or the ecosystem of the river.
But sand is being extracted illegally from the Kopili and Kolong rivers in Morigaon district under Dharamtul forest division by some contractors using machines and extractors. The local people have protested against this many times but the district authorities are yet to take any action in this matter.
The same is happening in Bongaigaon district under Kochugaon forest division, where despite public protests, some contractors continue to extract sand from the Hel River using pumping machines and dumpers. This is also happening in Dhemaji district where excavators (JCB) are being used to mine various rivers, and in Dibrugarh district where the Buridihing River is being mined illegally using machines.
According to sources, contractors must do only manual mining of rivers for the extraction of sand. They cannot use any machines for this purpose. It is the responsibility of forest officials like the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) to ensure that these guidelines are adhered to. But these guidelines are snubbed by contractors who extract sand from rivers using machinery. River mining becomes more rampant during the winter season and the use of machines for this purpose is now posing a threat to the river embankments.
Despite public complaints against illegal sand mining, the Forest Department has failed to take action against the contractors. Is there a lack of will on the part of the forest department to curb illegal river mining or is a section of forest officials hands-in-glove with the contractors?