Karnataka

Sand mafia raises its head again in Dakshina Kannada

A large number of boats are engaged in sand extraction flouting rules.

A large number of boats are engaged in sand extraction flouting rules.   | Photo Credit: H.S. Manjunath

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Residents say the number of boats exceed the permitted limit, and extractors use machinery to load sand on trucks

While travelling between Thumbe and Adyar on National Highway 75, one can see hundreds of boats in Netravathi digging for sand at many places. And on the river bank between Adyar and Kannur, there are leftover sand with imprints of wheels of heavy vehicles, indicating sand extraction and transportation in the night.

“The situation seems to have gone back a couple of years when sand extraction was rampant and illegal,” said a resident of Adyar, who did not wish to be identified. The absence of S. Sasikanth Senthil, who as Deputy Commissioner, had reined in the sand mafia, is clearly pronounced, he regretted.

He said about 10 acres of government land between Sahyadri College and Adyar Padavu was being used by illegal sand extractors. The government could well have developed tourism facilities on this stretch abutting the Netravathi backwaters, the resident said.

Over 200 boats

Another resident of Arkula said not more than 90 boats should be extracting sand in Netravathi's CRZ, given there were less than 30 permits for the region, as per his information. However, there are more than 200 boats engaged in sand extraction indicating large-scale illegal operations, he said.

The resident, who witnessed several raids on illegal sand extraction by the administration, said only poor boatmen and truck drivers were booked while the key players were allowed to go scot-free. Sand extractors blatantly use machinery, including earthmovers to load sand on trucks, motorised boats and even dredgers thus flouting all norms governing sand extraction in the CRZ area, the resident alleged.

Action being taken

Deputy Commissioner Sindhu B. Rupesh said she was aware of the issue and steps were being taken to curb the menace at source. Teams comprising personnel from different departments are being formed and would soon be in action against illegal sand extraction and transportation, she said.

Though sand from the CRZ too should be availed through Sandbazaar app or portal, there were many instances of extractors/ transporters bypassing the system, she said, adding the same would be curtailed.

Curbs on sand mafia

During his near two-year stint, the then Deputy Commissioner S. Sasikanth Senthil was able to bring down the number of sand extraction permits in rivers under Coastal Regulation Zone from over 400 to sub-100.

He strictly implemented the guidelines of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, reiterated by the National Green Tribunal. The guidelines mandated only traditional sand extractors be allowed to remove sand in the CRZ area using traditional boats and no machinery should be used.

Mr. Senthil ensured that only those extractors who were on the job before 2012-13 were given permits, who can deploy not more than three boats thereby reducing the numbers. Also, strict action was being taken against illegal extraction and transportation besides using GPS extensively to mark sand bars as well as identify boats.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 10:04:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/sand-mafia-raises-its-head-again-in-dakshina-kannada/article30062980.ece

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