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Illegal mining 'rampant' in Bhavnagar dist, degrading groundwater, rivers, ponds, farms

Counterview Desk 

Senior Gujarat-based environmentalists Rohit Prajapati and of the Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) in a letter to the Union secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, have said that “illegal” sand mining in Bhavnagar, coastal district, is “contaminating and degrading the ground water, rivers, lakes, other water resources and check dams.”
Citing specific instances and seeking immediate intervention, the letter, whose copy has been sent to the Gujarat chief secretary as also state environment department office als, says, “In addition to adverse environmental impacts (for example, on ground water quality and quantity) illegal sand and lignite mining also stand to have adverse impacts on agriculture and animal husbandry dependent livelihoods in more than 30 villages.”

Text:

This is to draw your attention to the continuing illegal sand mining in the coastal region of Bhavnagar district, Gujarat, and seek immediate halt to all illegal mining activities in the region.
As written earlier to the Gujarat State Industries and Mining Department, the Bhavnagar District Collector, and the Gujarat State Pollution Control Board, the area around villages Jasapara, Khadarpar, Mithivirdi and other surrounding villages are precariously situated. Having battled salinity ingress, due to proximity to sea coast, thanks to the decades of interventions by various government and non-governmental agencies, the region has improved its groundwater table and fertility of the land.
Now we can see mango, chiku and other tree plantation and it is again become well-known for such produce. All this now stands at risk due to increase in sand mining activities probably with the blessings with one or the other official with the mining department.
Our earlier representations regarding lignite mining and lignite based thermal power plant to the local authorities did lead to some intervention and at least some initial actions. But the sand mining continues unabated, despite the villagers’ and our letters to the concerned authorities. When authorities visited some of the illegal sites on April 20, 2021, they did not find on going mining activities but they were able to locate the machineries for mining.
We fear that either someone tips the offenders about the official inspection or there is some leakage of information by vested interests from government office. The mining activity remains at standstill just for couple of hours of an official visit and resumes thereafter with impunity. It is surprising that despite finding evidences at the mining sites, the concerned authorities have not taken any legal action. Based on the evidences found at the mining sites, the concerned authorities ought to take legal actions.
These unchecked activities are beginning to impact the groundwater quality – the source for drinking and agriculture in the region, the soil quality as well as the natural structures and functions of the rivers, check dams, ponds, and other water sources, thus impairing their capacity of provide ecosystem services.
According to community sources, presently the illegal sand mining continues unabated in the following areas:
1. Jasapara: Between Plot Nos 162 and 169 of Sosiya Ship Breaking Yard Plot
2. Jasapara: 3 sites near Mithivirdi River Bridge, and in Jasapara Village
3. Next to Survey No 330 - Khadarpar pastoral land
4. Mithivirdi Survey No 124
5. Three sites No 122, 118, and 114 in Khadarpar Pastoral land survey No 330
6. Behind Mokhdaji Temple Ashram in Khadarpar pastoral land, and many more.
The local officials are very well aware about these illegal mining sites but all other such sites of the region. The villagers generally talk about the unholy alliance between the some of the government officials and the owner of the illegal sand mining enterprise. The Google Earth images also can give them clear idea about the ongoing illegal sand mining activities.
Sand mining is known for its rampant and illegal extraction of sand in coastal areas playing havoc with ecosystem and communities
The Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in its Enforcement & Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining, January 2020, clearly states:
“It is the responsibility of every citizen of India to protect the environment and effective monitoring can only be possible when all the stakeholders viz. Central Government, State Government, Leaseholders/Mine Owners, Distributors, Dealers, Transporters and Consumers (bulk & retail) will contribute towards sustainable mining, and comply with all the statutory provisions.”
It further states:
“The environmental damages incurred or resulting due to illegal mining shall be assessed by a committee constituted by District Administration having expertise from relevant fields, and also having independent representation of locals and State Pollution Control Board. Guidelines for assessment of ecological damages prescribed by the State Government or Concerned Pollution Control Boards or any other authority shall be applicable and compensation as fixed shall be paid by the project proponent, in light of Hon’ble National Green Tribunal orders...
"The District Collector shall take necessary steps to strengthen the existing District and Taluk Level Committees and act on the complaints received, if any, on illegal sand quarrying and take strict remedial measures to rectify the same in a time-bound manner. The District Level Task Force may send its monthly report to the Appellate Forum formed as per G.O. (Ms) No. 27 of Industries Dept. dated May 17, 2015.”

The sand mining is known for its rampant and illegal extraction of sand in these coastal areas which, in turn, plays havoc with the ecosystem and local communities.
The concerned local authorities should use drones to locate the illegal sand mining sites and even determine their quantities as well. In an open-pit mine, a drone survey refers to the use of a drone (or UAV – unmanned aerial vehicle) equipped with a downward-facing RGB camera to capture images of a site from different vantage points. Out of these images, a photogrammetry software can recreate geo-referenced 3D maps, contour lines digital terrain models, or digital surface models of the mining site. The concerned authorities can also easily assess the quantum of sand mining.
In addition to adverse environmental impacts (for example, on ground water quality and quantity) illegal sand and lignite mining also stand to have adverse impacts on agriculture and animal husbandry dependent livelihoods in more than 30 villages.
We are requesting your immediate intervention and to bring a halt to all mining and related activities in the region before the situation on the ground become worse to irreversible. We know that the state is busy with the Covid-19 crisis, but stopping this illegal mining only needs political will using technical, on-ground data and following the legal provisions.
Is a sense of haplessness and helplessness is the reason not allowing to take action against the sand mining activities?
We expect your prompt and positive response in the interest of life, livelihoods, and environment. If you fail in your duties, you, as the concerned authorities, will be individually and collectively held responsible for the present dire conditions and be liable for any future legal and other consequences.

Comments

HBlance said…
Hope someone is taking actions for this illegal disturbing activities.

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