Illegal sand mining is a lucrative business in Uttar Pradesh with all the major rivers in the State mined by the mining mafia with strong political links. The illegal sand mining is rampant in the flood plains of the Ganga, Yamuna, Ghagra, Ken, Betwa, Chambal and the Gomti. The business has flourished without any regulations from the time it was made mandatory that environmental clearance called the environmental impact assessment (EIA) would have to be acquired for mining irrespective of the size of the area to be mined. Prior to 2012 environmental clearance was to be taken for sand mining in areas of five hectares or more. However, no clearance was required for mining in areas less than five hectares.
Excessive sand mining is considered to be an ecological disaster, but the lucrative albeit illegal business has gone on unabated for about two decades. It has gathered steam ever since the real estate boom what with even small towns in Uttar Pradesh witnessing a proliferation of realtors and builders.
Incidentally, the royalty per cubic metre of sand is Rs. 75. When the Mayawati Government was in power, sources said the royalty per cubic metre of sand was about Rs. 32. A truck load of sand generally costs around Rs.17,000, but the cost of a truck load goes up –around Rs. 25,000-- if the sand is procured through illegal mining. This explains why the Government officials keeping a tab on the illicit business have been subjected to several attacks from the mining mafia and their henchmen.
Banda district in the Bundelkhand region is notorious for sand mining along the Ken river, a tributary of the Yamuna. Similar is the case with the Betwa in Jalaun district of Bundelkhand region. So strong is the hold of the politically well-connected sand mafia operating in the region that they managed to get the then SP of Jalaun, Navneet Rana transferred because he had clamped down on illegal sand mining in June 2012.
Several politicians and mafia dons have high stakes in the illegal sand mining business. They granted political patronage to the mining contractors albeit at a cost. According to data collected by the State Irrigation Department, about two dozen engineers have been killed by the sand mining mafia in the last decade.