District Mining Officer holding additional charge, says he is ‘going after the mafia’
Anantnag: Illegal extraction of soil, from the plunder of fertile Karewas, goes on unabated in more than half a dozen villages of Pulwama district here in south Kashmir, with the authorities acting as mere spectators.
The extraction, using heavy machinery including earth movers, has become the single-most existential threat for the Karewas, which are known to house numerous species of birds, animals, and plants. “It is like plundering the home of these biotic elements, which in turn will create environmental hazards for the humans as well,” Riyaz Ahmad, a teacher and a student of environmental science, told Kashmir Reader.
He expressed deep concern over the health hazards this extraction was causing to the people. “The dust emanating from this extraction is severely hazardous,” he pointed out.
Sources in Pulwama district told Kashmir Reader that Karewas in Newa, Malangpora, Lajoora, Puchal, Parigam, Chandgam, Koil, Payar, and some other villages are being vandalised by a well-orchestrated mafia.
“All this is done during the night hours. They have tippers, dumpers, JCBs, and earth movers parked near the Karewas. These people get on to the job soon after darkness descends,” local sources told Kashmir Reader.
They said that the mafia seems to have no fear of the administration and is openly excavating and transporting the mined soil to different parts of the valley. “And it is not only the health hazards, they are also making our life difficult with the constant noise of the machinery and the vehicles throughout the night,” the locals said.
The locals lamented that they have been very vocal about the issue and have complained to the authorities quite a few times, but to no avail.
“Our area was bestowed with these Karewas, with lush green trees holding them together. But the soil mafia is hell-bent on vandalising every natural asset we have,” the locals said, adding, “The irony is that all this is happening right under the nose of the administration.”
Residents in many villages said that the dust emanating from these sites was making them sick, especially the children and the elderly, who face respiratory problems frequently.
“Besides, the roads are covered with muck from the transportation of this excavated soil. We are really in trouble but no one is coming forward to help,” the residents lamented.
Kashmir Reader talked to the District Mining Officer (DMO) Pulwama, Majid Aziz Bhat, who acknowledged that the mining of soil does take place, but added that the Geology and Mining Department was putting in some serious efforts to curb this menace.
“I am holding an additional charge here for the last two months but I have ensured that 60 percent of this illegal mining has been stopped,” Bhat told Kashmir Reader. He said he is going after the mafia and will ensure that the mining is stopped altogether in the next ten to fifteen days.
“Even last night, I along with my team raided many places and stopped the soil excavation. I was on the ground till midnight. I assure you things are moving in the positive direction,” he said.