Thane: Fearing crackdown, sand miners move from Ulhas creek to Mumbra

After mid-day highlighted how the authorities had failed to check rampant dredging at the Diva-Dombivli stretch of Ulhas creek, the sand mafia have vacated the belt and moved operations to the Mumbra area

Fearing renewed crackdown by the authorities following mid-day’s reports on illegal dredging taking place at Ulhas creek, the sand mafia seem to have beaten a hasty retreat from the Diva-Dombivli stretch, where the sand mining was most rampant.

On Tuesday, mid-day found that sand miners had completely vacated the Diva-Dombivli belt, and, instead, moved their operations near the Mumbra-Diva railway bridge. Pics/Shrikant Khuperkar
On Tuesday, mid-day found that sand miners had completely vacated the Diva-Dombivli belt, and, instead, moved their operations near the Mumbra-Diva railway bridge. Pics/Shrikant Khuperkar

However, the illegal activity is far from over the sand miners have simply shifted base to Mumbra, near the Central Railway bridge. According to experts, this is even more worrying as unchecked dredging could compromise the structural integrity of the bridge itself, possibly resulting in a collapse.

Last month, mid-day had highlighted how dredging had wiped out 300 acres of mangroves at the creek and was slowly turning the water body into a flood risk (‘Sand miners eat away at 300 acres of mangroves’, June 5). At the time, the Thane collectorate had given assurances that it would take stern action and eradicate this menace.

However, as this paper pointed out last week, despite the authorities’ claims of coming down hard on the miners, the illegal activity was still on in full swing at the Diva-Dombivli stretch (‘Authorities fail to rein in sand mining at Ulhas creek’, July 3).

Following the second report, however, mid-day visited the Diva-Dombivli belt to find that not only had the sand mining stopped, all the boats and equipment had been removed from the spot as well. However, instead of a complete halt, the sand miners simply moved to the area near the Mumbra-Diva slow track bridge (passing over Desai khadi (creek).

‘Dangerous’
Environmentalists are of the opinion that the new spot is even more dangerous as it could affect the railway bridge located just a few metres away.

“If sand dredging is going on near the Mumbra-Diva slow track bridge, then the concerned authorities should take action immediately because if it continues, then the sand mining may have an impact on the bridge’s stability,” said environmentalist Rishi Aggarwal.

“I think the government authorities are waiting for the bridge to fall, because if dredging continues there, it can be a threat to the structure of the bridge. It is impossible for such mining activity to continue without support from the government machinery,” echoed activist Stalin Dayanand, from the NGO Vanashakti.

When mid-day approached the Collector’s office, an official said, “The tehsildar who is in charge of the area has already been taking action from time to time, and a few days ago, some trucks carrying illegal sand were also caught and complaints were registered as per the law.”

Minister speak
Senior Shiv Sena leader and state Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam told mid-day, “I will immediately ask the concerned official to look into the matter and action will be taken against those involved in sand dredging at the Diva, Dombivli and Mumbra areas.”

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