Illegal sand mining poses threat to river, bridges

Rules on sand lifting near bridge to keep pillars safe are flouted

DINDIGUL: Rampant illegal sand mining being taken up in large scale, that too in broad day light, on Sandhanavarthini River poses grave threat to bridges constructed across culverts and prime roads, cultivable lands in rain fed areas and irrigation wells.

Alarming:Illegal sand mining taken up on Sandhanavarthini river at Kulathur near Dindigul on Saturday.— PHOTO: G. KARTHIKEYAN

Neither the government officials nor elected representatives of local bodies pay attention to it. Even local people too do not object to these illegal activities without realising that such activities will ultimately affect their livelihood.

Earlier, sand lifters used to lift sand from the interior parts of the river either at dusk or at night discreetly using bullock carts or mini goods carrier vehicles. With not even a reprimand either from revenue or from mining officials, sand lifters do all the processing work including collection, stone removal and sieving on the river bed and dispatch the finished product leisurely in lorries to the respective destination.

Even elected representatives do not care to realise its adverse impact and take steps to prevent this hazard.

The abundant lenience of the officials and representatives encourages sand lifters to start lifting sand even near the main road in Kulathur without fear. All rules on sand lifting near the bridge area in order to keep the pillars and abutment safe are flouted as they lift large quantity of sand near the bridge, said environmentalists. “This illegal exercise will cause a grave threat to the river environment and severe damage to the bridge.”

Now, the river bed near Kulauthur is full of large pits. The worst affected are farmers. Flow of rainwater in the river recharges irrigation wells that irrigate at least one rain fed crop per year. Sand mining wipes out their last hope also.

Top soil is a non-renewable resource. The river bed sans sand does not retain water and allow it to flow towards dam without recharging ground water table and irrigation wells. In the long run, it will cripple the economic development of rural areas parlaying even rain-fed agriculture activities, they stated.

Originated from Sirumalai, Sandhanavarthini River passes through Sanarpatti, Eriyode, Kulathur and several villages and hamlets and finally confluence with Kudaganar River.


Erode: No licences, but sand miners plunder Bhavani river

BHAVANI (ERODE DIST): The placid Bhavani river shimmers under the morning skies at Servarayanpalayam village near Bhavani town. As the village women trickle in to the weed-ridden banks of Bhavani for a bath, five round, iron boats furiously sway in the waters. Follow the boats, and you realise it’s no innocuous fishing expedition. Wearing a tiny piece of cloth around their loins, the boatmen slip into the water and firmly plant a 20-foot long stick into the river. And then, the plundering of the Bhavani river sand begins, in broad daylight,

No licences or permission have been given by the Erode district administration for mining sand in Bhavani river. Yet these specially-crafted boats ruthlessly ravage the river bed. “We have not given any licences for mining sand in Bhavani river,” concedes a senior revenue official. The men in loin clothes sink deep into the waters and bring out bucketfuls of sand. In the next two hours, the five boats are almost half-full with sand.

Every day, from 6 am to 8 am, these boats raid the Bhavani for its brown sand. After the raid, the boats are parked on the banks and the water is drained from the sands with filters. Then they unload the sand on the river banks and leave. In the evenings, bullock carts or tractor trailers trundle in to collect the mounds of sand.

Normally boats are made of wood or animal hide. But these huge boats, around 15 feet in diameter, have been specially designed to mine sand in the river. “We get Rs 150 for mining a boat full of sand,” says Palaichamy, a local villager.

The morning scene unfolds in almost all villages near Bhavani town. From Servarayanpalayam to Thippichettipalayam, Seethapalayam, Chinnamolapalayam, Jembai and Aapakoodal, illegal sand mining flourishes with support of local villagers. “The powerful sand lobby contribute funds for building village temples and bribe the local leaders too. And when the police stop the mining, they gherao them,” says lawyer Papa Mohan, who had got a court decree against indiscriminate sand mining in Bhavani river bed.

According the Rule 38 (A) of the Tamil Nadu Minor Minerals Concessions rules, 1950, only the district collector is empowered to issue licences for sand mining in river bed. And mining can be done only on a 10-hectare land within the demarcated area as per the sketch clearly provided by the collector. And a plaque should be put up at the mining site giving details of the period of contract. Importantly, sand should not be mined beyond one metre from the existing sand bed level at the time of award of contract. “But powerful local politicians control the sand mining show. And none of these rules are followed in any of the districts,” rues a government geologist.

In Erode, mining goes on unchecked even without issue of licences, at the instance of a powerful district political leader, says a police official. “The moment we arrest the miners, we are pressured to drop the case and release them,” he says on condition of anonymity. And the Bhavani river remains a mute victim of sand mining and the polluting dyeing units that dots its banks.

From TOI

Hubli-Illegal mining: Plea to hasten probe

HUBLI: Environmentalists have urged the central government to speed up the CBI inquiry into illegal mining in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

National Committee for Protection of Natural Resources president S R Hiremath and A S Salanki of Jan Vikas Andolan told reporters here on Saturday that money from illegal mining had led to corruption and power politics.

“There is an immediate need to curb illegal mining by ending the nexus between politicians, officials and miners,” Hiremath said.

Investigating agencies should also look into allegations of tax evasions and violations under Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

“The inquiry into illegal mining by several companies, including the Obalapuram Mining Company and Bellary Iron Ore Private Ltd, began well but it stopped because of a stay order issued by the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. The Andhra and the Union governments should work towards vacating the stay,” Salanki said.

Hiremath said they would urge the seven-member multi-disciplinary team constituted by Andhra Pradesh government to expedite survey of the mines and the inter-state border. “We will also urge Karnataka CM to join this initiative,” Hiremath said.

From TOI

Mumbai: Illegal mining seen at Alibaug

MUMBAI: Despite a complete ban on sand mining on beaches, illegal mining is continuing at Alibaug, as confirmed by TOI during a visit to the beach on Monday.

Only an hour from the Gateway of India, Alibaug is a weekend getaway for many wealthy Mumbaikars who own farms along the Raigad coast. However, unbeknownst to them, when they are away their properties become ideal storehouses for the illegally mined sand. Local villagers, though aware of the illegal activity, keep mum for fear of being harassed by the mining mafia.

Abbas Jasdanwala, a businessman who owns a bungalow in Mandwa, said the mining has increased. “I go horse riding in the early morning on the beach and I frequently come across JCBs dredging up sand on the beach. This is collected in one spot, then filled in a truck and taken away,’’ he said. Earlier, the sand would be manually dug up and taken away in bullock-carts. Jasdanwala, who has made Alibaug his weekend getaway for 25 years, said the mining has increased tremendously in the past one year.

A favoured site, villagers claimed, is near the bungalow of an industrialist. A mound of sand was there when TOI visited the spot. “Mining happens late at night or in the early morning, when no one is on the beach,’’ said a villager. Villagers said the sand is sold in Pune and locally for construction.

Jasdanwala said the beach was being depleted at such a fast rate that stones are visible on the once smooth beach. The collector’s office is yet to take cognizance of his repeated complaints.

On January 13, activist Sumaira Abdulali, who filed a public interest litigation against sand mining in 2006, said in a written complaint to Raigad collector Subhash Sonawane that sand was being illegally stored on a property in Jhirad that belongs to a Mumbai doctor. Abdulali named three local landowners as the culprits.

Ramesh Surwade, resident deputy collector, Raigad district, admitted receiving complaints from Abdulali and the Bombay Environmental Action Group. “We have registered First Information Reports, seized properties and are taking action whenever it is brought to our notice,’’ he said.

Last month, Sonawane filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court detailing the action being taken by his office to stop sand mining. Surwade said, “We have put a stop to it. Every time there is a complaint we attend to it within 30 minutes.’’

But when TOI visited Mandwa beach, local villagers showed several pits caused by sand dredging and spots where sand had been stored to be later ferried away.

Abdulali said mining is on at the Awas and Nandgaon beaches too. She was brutally attacked when she first protested against sand mining in the area.

From TOI

WWF – Africa – Mining In Cameroon National Parks Threatens Wildlife

WWF - Beauty - Cameroon National Park

WWF - Beauty - Cameroon National Park

The attribution of mining exploration licenses in sites found within national parks is causing concerns in Southeast Cameroon. Cameroon’s Ministry of Mines, Water and Energy Resources has issued permits for mining exploration to be carried out in patches of land found within Lobeke and Boumba Bek national parks and some logging concessions. World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF, fears this could be a potential source of conflict and threat to biodiversity conservation in Southeast Cameroon. During a presentation of the situation to visiting Cameroonian Members of Parliament, MPs, to Southeast Cameroon, WWF Jengi interim Coordinator, Zacharie Nzooh, stated that mining methods are incompatible with the objective of biodiversity protection. “There is bound to be fragmentation of wildlife habitats and restriction of animals’ liberty to roam freely,” stated Dr. Nzooh. “An important migratory corridor of elephants in Lobeke that serves as highway for migration of elephants in Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville and Central African Republic, will be seriously perturbed if mining is allowed there,” he declared.

The superimposition of mining sites in Lobeke and Boumba Bek national parks and some logging concessions, runs counter to international engagements made by the state of Cameroon, with regards to biodiversity protection, Nzooh argued. In March 2009, a field mission led by local government delegates of Environment, Forestry and Mining to mining sites in Southeast Cameroon revealed that 10 permits have been issued for mining, though only three are active. Mining pits are left open constituting potential traps to human beings and animals. Another area of potential conflict is the incompatibility between mining and forestry laws. While forestry law proscribes the installation of people in forest concessions and exploitation in marshy areas, Cameroon’s mining law authorizes the installation of mining teams within areas where activities are being carried out and exploration in marshy areas. The upshot might be a rise in poaching and destruction of sensitive ecological areas. Consequently, “some logging companies are resisting the installation of mining companies within their forest management units, pending clarification on the issues,” stated the government delegates in their report. Logging companies have requested a review of the management plan for logging concessions to include mining issues. To help the situation, the delegates proposed a harmonisation of Mining and Forestry laws, definition of a set of obligations for mining companies operating in the area and the withdrawal of mining permits for areas found within national parks. They proposed the establishment of a concertation platform composed of different actors that will meet once a year to share information in order to check the negative impacts of mining on the environment.

Addressing Cameroon’s Parliament recently, Regional Representative of WWF in the central African sub region, Natasha Kofoworola Quist, said “WWF believes that mining should happen in an environmentally and socially responsible manner that does not compromise the needs of future generations for clean air, water, land, and viable populations of plant and animal species.”
The Regional Representative stated that, “WWF recognizes the importance of eradicating poverty and creating employment and sustainable livelihoods in Cameroon. However, there is need to properly regulate natural resources exploitation as well as infrastructure development in order to avoid the degradation of the natural environment which could also threaten the health and livelihoods of many local and indigenous people dependent on forest resources.”
*He is one of WWF Cameroon Communication Officials

By Pegue Manga – Africa News

Kodagu in imminent Ecological, Demographic Danger

Mysore, Aug. 10 (KK&DM)- “Kodagu is our motherland and it should be protected now before it is too late.” This was the resolve of the Kodavas for the conservation of Kodagu, the source of Cauvery river.



The leaders of Cauvery Sene, environmentalists and the prominent citizens exchanged views on the steps to be taken for the conservation of Cauvery River Basin at an interaction and awareness meet organised by Kodava Samaja at Field Marshal K.M. Cariappa Community Hall in Vijayanagar yesterday.

Nature lover and an engineer by profession, M.N. Appaiah said that forests in Kodagu are fast diminishing and expressed fears of an adverse impact on the catchment area of Cauvery river.

The water sources in Gangotri, the birth place of river Ganga too, are facing threat because of deforestation. Even US researchers have expressed concern over the danger. Deforestation has led to global warming, Appaiah said.

It has caused melting of snow in Gangotri thus threatening Gangotri’s water base. Similarly, deforestation is going on in Kodagu at a fast pace and this has posed a grave threat to Cauvery river basin, Appaiah explained.

Original inhabitants

Coorg Wildlife Society President Col. C.P. Muthanna (retd.), in his power-point presentation, said that the number of Kodagu’s original inhabitants is rapidly on the decline and instead Keralites are settling down in Kodagu in large numbers. Timber mafia of Kerala is eating away Kodagu’s forests and there is no doubt that Kodagu will become another Kerala if the situation continued, he warned.

Kodagu is faced with twin threats of deforestation and Keralisation. Hence it has become absolutely necessary for Kodavas to be united to face these threats. Kodagu is our motherland, he said and called upon everyone to protect it at least now.

He urged the Kodavas and the original inhabitants numbering about 24 to purchase land in Kodagu and discourage outsiders from buying land for commercial purpose.

Observing that illegal sand mining in Cauvery basin is another big problem that Kodagu was facing, Col. Muthanna said this also contributed to deforestation and drying up of Cauvery basin causing ecological imbalance.

Outlining the major problems that Kodagu was facing, Col. Muthanna said that rampant encroachment of forest land, opening of teak plantation, illegal entry to Kodagu by outsiders who encroach on government land, conversion of forest land for habitation, conversion of agricultural land in a large scale for commercial and residential purposes were the major problems faced by Kodagu today.

The deforestation in Cauvery catchment areas has gone out of control as illegal residential layouts and holiday resorts are mushrooming in the name of tourism, he added expressing concern that this was the main reason for the low rainfall this year.

Cauvery Sene Convenor K.A. Ravi Chengappa, who spoke, said that Cauvery Sene is relentlessly fighting against deforestation and illegal mining in Kodagu. Severe protests led to the stopping of Barapole project and currently an agitation is being carried on against the setting up of a power generation project in Abbe Falls. About 40 per cent of Madikeri will be lost if this project comes up. A PIL has been filed in the Court against the setting up of Abbe Falls and Irupu Falls Hydro-electric power generation projects, he said.

It may be recalled here that when Gundu Rao was the Chief Minister some timber merchants had the audacity to retort that soon they would make Kodagu forest a football ground.

About 500 people attended the meeting yesterday.

How to save Kodagu

• Prevent illegal encroachment.

• Prevent deforestation.

• Ban illegal sand mining in Cauvery river basin.

• Prevent Keralisation of Kodagu by Kerala migrants.

• Implement the concept of Greater Talacauvery Wildlife

• Ban felling of trees in Pushpagiri, Talacauvery, Brahmagiri Wildlife Parks. • Prevent urbanisation of Kodagu.

• Halt conversion of agricultural land for commercial and other purposes.

By Star of Mysore