41 FIRs can't deter illegal sand miners in Palghar

Rampant constructions in Mumbai and Thane are one of the reasons fuelling demand for sand; staff crunch also prevents regular action

It seems the authorities are turning a blind eye to the rampant sand mining that is taking place in the Tansa river stretch near Virar, adjacent to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway.

Heaps of sand removed from the basin of the Tansa river near Virar. Pic/Ranjeet Jadhav
Heaps of sand removed from the basin of the Tansa river near Virar. Pic/Ranjeet Jadhav

Despite the ban, rampant sand mining takes place in the nights and heaps of sand have been removed from the basin of the river, with boats used for it seen from the highway. However, the collector says they have been taking action against those involved in this.

On Monday when mid-day visited the area, we saw sand heaps kept along the banks of the Tansa river. Locals who did not wish to be named told this newspaper that standing on the bridge over the river and taking pictures of the sand mining could land this reporter in trouble.

Speaking to mid-day, the Collector of Palghar district Abhijit Bangar said, “We have been taking action against those involved in illegal sand mining in the area and I will immediately ask the concerned officials to look into the matter, and take action against those involved in the same.”

‘FIRs registered’
“From April 2015 we have registered 41 FIRs against those responsible for illegal sand mining in Palghar District and the machinery has also been seized from time to time. We have also taken suo moto action and whenever we get complaints, we also take joint action along with the revenue department and police department,” he added.

There is a huge demand for sand in Mumbai and Thane district, as there is a lot of construction going on, and according to sources, it is one of the most important reasons behind the rampant sand mining.

At present there is a ban on removing sand from rivers or creeks in Palghar using any kind of machinery like high power suction pumps. The National Green Tribunal has also banned sand mining using suction pumps.
Removal of sand manually is permitted and only those living in the area who are traditionally dependent on the same for their livelihoods, are allowed to do this. To manually remove sand, villagers go into shallow waters along with thin nets, with the help of which they remove it.

Limited manpower
Sources from the collector’s office also told this newspaper that the other reason why illegal sand mining is taking place, is because of limited manpower it becomes difficult to take action every time, and without police protection, it is difficult to visit the area where the activity takes place.

Those who are into the illegal sand mining business have a criminal background, and their goons are posted at the site.

'Keep record of city construction'
Environmentalists say that the only solution for this is regular action and also keeping a record of the development in the city. “There is huge development taking place in Mumbai and Thane and this is why there is a huge demand for the sand. If we really want to stop illegal sand mining the government should ask the builders and developers in the city to provide information about the location from where they get sand for their project,” said Sumaira Abdulali from Awaaz Foundation.

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