Illegal sand mining in India

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As India makes millions and millions of a year, it pays the cost of environment. This article deals with one of the many costs – illegal sand mining. Sand mining is the extraction of sand through an open pit but sometimes mined from inland dunes from oceans, riverbeds and beaches. Sand is adjudged as the fourth most important mineral and is highly demand for construction and as use as abrasive.

Sand mining cause huge damage to the environment. In Kerala, sand mining has been attributed to cause both floods and draughts. It has reduced the population of fish in the backwaters, negatively impacting the fisherman. Similarly, sand mining in Maharashtra has caused the Godavari river to dry up. Sand mining has destroyed the nesting grounds of gharials and Gangetic Dolphins driving them to the brink of extinction. Many ecologists deem sand mining to be the biggest contributor to environmental degradation. Even the Supreme Court acknowledged the dangers of small-scale sand mining in a PIL by Deepak Kumar.

Despite the environmental concerns, sand mining cannot be prevented due to its usage in construction. Taking cognizance of the same, Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, in India promotes sustainable sand mining. Sand mining activities have to distributed and rest periods have to be granted for the ecology to recover. As per the act, clearances valid up to for a certain time limit are granted. The problem with the legislation, is the lax of implementation.

It is wrong to assume that no attempts have been made. In most instances, attempts were silenced. The sand mafias (illegal contractors) easily open fire on the police, they have killed law enforcement officers and reports seeking to report them. In the vast expanse of internet, I could only find a single instance of a girl named Kavya who had better luck, raising her voice against illegal sand mining through a video. After the video went viral, NGT asked the Kollam government to submit a report.  In other cases, the lax of implementation can be attributed to local authorities who turn a blind eye to sand mining. Or, despite declaring a ban the state granted clearances without any checks.

Another problem with regard to sand mining is the lack of data. While there is no official data, Piyush Goal in 2015-16 reported that here were over 19,000 cases of illegal mining of minor minerals, which included sand.

In 2018, Sand Mining Framework was released. It tackled issues like environmental degradation, non-availability of sand, high sand prices, illegalities in sand mining etc. During my research, I could not find reports of the performance of the act.