Shopian: Even after the High Court’s recent order to immediately stop all illegal mining and excavation of natural resources, the practice continues unabated in south Kashmir’s Shopian and Pulwama districts. Officials claim that they have managed to put an end to “90 percent” of the illegal mining, but the facts on the ground disprove such claims.
Natural resources like sand, gravel and boulders are being transported in truck after truck from along the Rambiara rivulet, which has a length of more than 30 kilometers, as well as from Romshi and other small rivers to villages in both the districts.
Locals and those who buy the minerals say that while the government has fixed the rates of minerals, they are being sold at double the rates.
According to official data, for 36 mining blocks along these rivulets, permission for six has already been declined. For the rest 30 blocks, official assessment is underway. That means for none of the blocks is there official sanction to carry out excavation.
“Nobody has yet completed all the official formalities which can allow the contractors to carry out their mining work,” said Majid Aziz Bhat, district geology and mining official for district Shopian.
Locals living along the Rambiara rivulet told Kashmir Reader that at no point of time has the excavation of minerals stopped. “It has been halted for few days on occasions when government officials raided and seized vehicles and machines, but each time it has resumed as before,” said Suhail Ahmad, who lives in Bapora area in Shopian town.
Gulzar Ahmed, a building contractor, said that a record number of structures were raised this year even during the Covid-19 situation. “If not from rivers, then where is all this building material coming from?” he asked.
According to experts, excavation of minerals is being carried out in river beds since decades, but what is worrisome now is the use of bulldozers which have made meters-deep trenches in the river bed.
“Such devastation was not there when the minerals were excavated manually, even though they did it for decades. Once the bulldozers were used for this job, the marks of devastation are visible all around the rivulets,” said Muhammad Abid, an environmental activist.
Majid Aziz, the geology and mining officer, said that illegal excavation along these rivulets has come down by “90 percent” as compared to the past. He did not specify how long ago in the past was he referring to.
“We are carrying out regular drives in this regard and last month we seized at least 18 vehicles and machines. Cases in different police stations have been lodged against persons found involved,” he said.
When asked where all the minerals are coming from which are being used for construction purposes, he said that people involved in this practice are taking advantage of darkness and odd hours to avoid seizure. “We do not allow anyone to excavate minerals until they complete all the clearances, which include environmental and pollution clearances,” he said.