SHOPIAN: Despite a ban on excavation of sand and stones from rivulets in Shopian, hundreds of lorries and tractors are at work, ferrying the sand and stones plowed by heavy machines in Rambiara rivulet.
From Hirpora in Shopian to Litter in Pulwama as many as 300 load carrying vehicles and bulldozers extract and ferry the minor minerals for construction purposes.
Local residents said the contractors find it cheap to get construction material from the streams.
Local labourers rue that heavy machines have left them jobless.
“How can we compete with bulldozers, they are making deep gulches in the rivulet. Everyone wants speedy delivery and contractors and locals feel it easy to buy the material from those who were extracting the material with machines which has adversely affected our livelihood,” Muhammad Dilawar Beig, a labourer said.
Javid Ahmad, another labourer said, “Government has been directly playing with our bread while they allowed the bulldozers and contractors to extract the minerals from the rivulet.” Residents from Trenz, Pehlipora, Chilipora and Litter told Kashmir Reader that several residents have occupied the rivulet by filling it with soil excavated from grazing lands.
They said that official assurances of stopping the illegal occupation of rivulet have not borne any results and allege that officials are involved in the land grab.
Officials from Fisheries department said that allowing the excavation in the rivulet impacts the fish grazing in the rivulet since the area is protected for fish grazing.
Assistant Director, Fisheries department Shopian, Muhammad Aslam Bhat told Kashmir Reader that they have conveyed their reservations to officials about the auctioning the rivulet minerals. “Massive excavation of minerals from the rivulet will also disturb our work in future particularly in breeding season of fishes,” he said.
District officer Minerals Shopian, Naseer Ahmad while admitting the illegal excavation of minor minerals told Kashmir Reader that they are going to stop all illegal excavation with heavy machinery.
“I have fined several persons for violating the guidelines and also took fine of material and we are going to take major drives against the violators from tomorrow,” he assured. He added, “Open auction of mineral has been given by government for the minerals in the rivulet and deputy commissioner Shopian is chairing the auction,” he said.
He said that under SRO-105 there were provisions that the auctions of minerals can be done after environmental clarifications from different departments. “The manual or machinery excavation which is presently going on is illegal and without permissions of concerned departments. Till 31 December of 2017, we allowed the laborers and tractor drivers for manual excavation after they were registering and were paying royalty fee but after that the district administrations has banned all types of excavation,” he said, adding. “Now we will auction all those areas where excavation of minerals is possible and we will include all expertise for having excavations and for that we will allow only scientific type of excavations whether manually or by use of machinery.”
He said that without auctioning the minerals the extractors were excavating the minerals without scientific means which resulted in environmental hazards. “We are in contact with every department concerned, after their clarifications we will allow the excavation of minerals,” Naseer said.
Deputy Commissioner Shopian, Aijaz Asad did not respond to repeated calls.