Shopian: People living in the many Shopian villages that lie alongside the banks of Rambiara rivulet are facing problems due to the government’s decision to hand over contracts for excavation of minerals from the bed and banks of the rivulet. They say that the excavation of minerals not only threatens their horticultural land but also makes them more vulnerable to floods.
Residents of Babakhider village told Kashmir Reader that they raised their voice against such mining as all environmental guidelines were being violated. “We tried to stop the excavation of minerals near the river banks where there is a flood threat to the residential houses, but the contractors brought the police and the police told us that we will be booked if we stop anyone from this mining,” said Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Babakhider village.
Locals said that their orchards used to get irrigated through natural canals but since the auctioning of the rivulet, they are forced to use motors on which they incur heavy expenses for oil.
“What the government did was first auction the river minerals to non-local people post the 2019 clampdown, and later the non-locals sold their shares to locals. Now locals are fighting locals and both are the victims,” Ahmad said.
From Rang-Kadel bridge to Heff, the Rambiara rivulet is witnessing massive excavation of minerals where all the environmental guidelines are tossed aside and localities now face a flood threat.
Villagers from Gonchipora, which is a mile away from Babakhider, told Kashmir Reader that the contractors bring heavy machines during night and excavate minerals from any place along the rivulet.
“They don’t think of the environmental guidelines and excavate anything from anywhere to earn more. Once dawn breaks, they hide the bulldozers and then officials come to visit, but they have to stop the excavation during night,” Bilal Ahmad, a resident of Gonchipora, said.
Villagers say that before finalising contract for any portion of the river, it is mandatory to have an official public hearing, but the people of their area have not been asked anything about it.
Manual labourers from the area, who used to excavate minerals from the rivulet for decades, are also left jobless due to the use of heavy machinery.
“We neither damaged the river beds nor made pits but these machines have made deep trenches in the riverbed,” Ali Muhammad, a labourer, said.
Locals said that hundreds of tractor lorries and heavy dumpers, which make dozens of rounds throughout the night, have snatched their sleep, too.
Majid Aziz Bhat, District Geology and Mining Officer, told Kashmir Reader that their team is continuously booking law violators but many of them operate during the night.
“We carry out raids during the night as well but before we arrive, they escape. People should take photographs of the machines and inform us, so that we can get proof to lodge cases,” he said.
Bhat informed that contracts for five mineral blocks of the rivulet have been finalised while public hearing for ten more blocks is scheduled next week.