Budgam: Days after the district administration seized scores of excavating machines in Budgam district to crack down on soil extraction, the vandalism of kerawas has again started in the district with the consent of district officials.
Residents living close to land excavation sites complained that after a gap of three weeks, scores of machines are extracting soil during night hours from life-nurturing kerawas.
The unchecked extraction of soil is threatening the biodiversity and the ecological balance of the area.
Locals alleged that the Minerals department and Revenue officials have taken “their shares” to allow the extraction of soil.
“The Budgam kerawas including Patwaw, Jahama, Charhar, Garind and others are fertile areas where saffron was being cultivated, but these persons have rendered these areas useless and barren,” a local said.
District Mineral Officer Budgam, Faisal Masood admitted that soil extraction on the karewas had resumed.
“Though we had seized scores of machines weeks ago after raiding these sites, but we finally succumbed to the pressure from higher officials of the governing body,” Masood said. He added that permission has been granted for soil extraction for ten days.
“We have kept the public concern in consideration and asked the tippers and JCBs to operate for four hours only,” Masood said. “This will reduce the sufferings of common masses and at the meantime won’t effect these areas to a greater extent,” Masood added.
Asked about the fund of banning soil extraction and then allowing it, Masood said, “I am helpless and can’t do anything in addition to this. Once I will receive order from higher officials to stop, I will stop and when asked to allow, I have no excuse to not allow them to excavate,” Masood said.
The Land Revenue Act’s Section 133A forbids the excavation of soil from kerawas – the plateau terraces which are present above the Jehlum.
These are the areas that grow the most almonds, saffron and apricot in Kashmir valley. Over the years, sadly, these lands have been robbed of the vital soil deposits they have.
Local sources said that the illegal extraction of soil from karewas in Budgam has been going on in the name of filling the landfill site at Achan Eidgah, and at Rakhi Arth, where a residential colony is being built by the government.
Residents of Ustad Colony, Bazaar Mohalla, Chane, Razwan and many other areas in Budgam have been complaining for years that hundreds of tippers make rounds during night hours to carry the extracted soil to different areas of the valley.
“The noisy, fast-moving tippers disturb us and have snatched away our sleep. Patients who have been advised rest have been left helpless on God’s mercy,” residents said.
The government gives special permission to contractors to excavate and carry soil, which is used as filling and as soil cover at the dumping site at Achan and Rakhi Arth. However, there is rampant misuse of these permissions.