Questions arise on auctioned beds
SHOPIAN: The district administration has woken up to sand and bolder mining in Rambaira rivulet in Shopian and banned the mining activities, but questions have arisen over the auctioning of rivulet beds for mining done by Geology and Mining department in the district by the end of 2017.
The Deputy Commissioner Shopian, Owais Ahmad earlier this week enforced ban on mining in the rivulet and subsequently authorities seized heavy machines and trucks used in the extraction. The ban was also enforced on those who had taken contracts, but had not been given environmental clearance from the Deputy Commissioner’s office.
Environmental experts told Kashmir Reader that allowing mining of minerals from the rivulet not only resulted in environmental destruction but also snatched livelihood of hundreds of labourers who were manually extracting minerals from the rivulet. An expert told Kashmir Reader that they had warned the administration of perilous consequences of allowing mining with the use of machinery.
“They didn’t listen to us then but we hope now they will not allow massive loot of minerals and environmental degradation,” he said.
Sources in the Shopian mini-secretariat told Kashmir Reader that that a huge area of rivulet was auctioned out on few lakhs of rupees while the cost of extracted material ran into crores.
They added that extractors have dug big trenches at several places in the rivulet in brazen violation of laws.
“They are extracting minerals near the bridges, damaging embankments, dug huge pits but the department of Geology was watching all this as mute spectators,” an officer in the Deputy Commissioner’s office said.
The use of heavy machines for sand extraction was going on unchecked for the last nine months, on around 40 kilometere span of the rivulet from Litter to Hirpora.
Deputy Commissioner, Owais Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that several vehicles and bulldozers were seized by the administration and mining of minerals has been banned in the rivulet.
“I am verifying things in this regard. I got complaints that the contractors were extracting minerals near bridges which would result in break down of bridges,” he said adding that none of the contractors have got environmental clearances from his office.
“We are checking the role of Geology and Mining department as well. The fee for mining on huge area is nothing compared to the cost of minerals extracted from the rivulet,” he added.
In January this year when the authorities had allowed the use of machinery for extraction, the Geology and Mining department officials had told Kashmri Reader that “all scientific guidelines” were followed” and environmental clearance was granted.
When contacted, District Officer for Geology and Mining Shopian, Suhail Ahmad, told Kashmir Reader that his department has no reservation if the ban on mining is implemented in letter and spirit.
“DDC Shopian, who also is the chairman of auction committee, has every right to ban the mining but it must be adopted on ground. A similar order came from his office last month but that was not implemented then,” he said.
Asked about the alleged role of Geology and Mining in letting contractors violate the guidelines, Suhail said an open auction for mining was done in which the rates remained low.
“We are only four people in the department who have to watch 50 kilometres of rivulet and we have registered 50 cases against the law violators in different police stations but police didn’t take action against them,” he said.
He, however, admitted that there was no environmental clearance for mining in the rivulet.
“The file is lying in Deputy commissioner’s office since a year,” he said.
He added that the vehicles seized by the law enforcing agencies were “conducting mining with prior permission”.
“They booked those who have documents but didn’t act against those who are conducting illegal mining,” he said.
“On a huge area of around 10 kilometres (Turkwangam-Litter) of rivulet, illegal mining is going and we have registered FIR’s against the people but no action was done, neither from police nor from civil administration.”
He informed that 25 blocks of rivulet were auctioned from time to time by the end of 2017.