Shallow Jhelum waters a boom for sand diggers

SRINAGAR: Sand diggers at Chattabal are cashing in on low water levels in the river Jehlum to extract rich sand deposits.
In fact they anchor their boats early on to outpace each other in this extraction activity.
With constructions in city having picked up significantly after 2014 floods, the demand for sand has picked up.
The toil is hard says Abdul Rahman Guru resident of Gund Roshan and one veterans at the site. “We leave home by 5 am in the morning and many reach this place through the river route in boats to this anchor their boats down the Chattabal Weir that for long has been produced holds rich sand deposits brought by the river.
Adding that he and his father were fisherman, but shifted to this profession as demand for sand picked up significantly as constructions boom saw use of cement and sand..
Winters according to sand diggers are more effective in drawing out more sand as water level is low. “It is cold now, but in summers it is difficult to extract the sand from the river bed as water level is high and one has to make extra effort to pull up the sand onto the large boat” Manzoor Ahmad a sand digger from Shadipora area said. Manzoor said that they work for an agent who pays them Rs 1000 for their collection that is finished by 10 am, a time they enjoy their first tea.
Equipped with special shovel that are fitted with long handle diggers say that pollution is adding to their woes as loads of polythene and other waste do hamper collection.
Guru said that there was times when pollution levels were less, but now with people dumping all the waste in the water we have suffer. He said that September floods of 2014 did wash away deposits at their site, but they equally got replenished as the river brought more sand to the place.
Hilal Ahmad for whom many sand collectors work at this site says that they have to clean the sand and pay taxes to government before they can sell it to customers.

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