High-level meet decides to check unauthorised sand-mining in rivers

MAKING A POINT: Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan addressing a meeting of police officials and District Collectors in the city on Monday. Photo: S. Mahinsha

MAKING A POINT: Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan addressing a meeting of police officials and District Collectors in the city on Monday. Photo: S. Mahinsha  

Special Correspondent

Thiruvananthapuram: A high-level meeting convened by the Government on Monday decided to take stern action to check unauthorised sand-mining in rivers.

The meeting attended by Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran stressed the need for better coordination between the Police and Revenue Departments to curb the so-called sand-mining mafia.

Special squads would be constituted to crackdown on sand-mining and the Riverbank Protection Act would be amended soon to plug the loopholes and ensure deterrent punishment for illegal sand-mining.

The meeting also decided to seek expert opinion to identify a suitable substitute for river sand to feed the construction industry.

Mr. Rajendran told the meeting that illegal sand-mining was rampant across the State. At many places, unscientific extraction of sand had endangered railway bridges and eroded the banks. The Minister said the destruction of hills for soil and the reclamation of land from water bodies affected the environment.

The reclamation of land from fresh water bodies such as Vellayani and Sasthancotta would lead to acute drinking water scarcity, he said.

Mr. Rajendran said the Government was examining the proposed amendments to the State act regulating river sand-mining.

Underlining the need for strict enforcement of laws regulating river sand-mining, Mr. Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the failure to bridle the sand mafia would lead to a serious law and order problems. He said special squads, comprising Revenue and Police officials, would be constituted for the drive against unauthorised sand-mining. The District Collector and the SP would have joint control of the squad, he said.

Mr. Balakrishnan highlighted the need to address the demand-supply gap in sand for the construction industry.

"Sand is a crucial input for the construction industry and any shortfall in supply would impact on the economy. The solution is to identify an alternative to river sand. The Government is examining several proposals in this regard," he said.

Industries Minister Elamaram Karim called for a join effort to check the smuggling of mineral sand from Kollam and Alappuzha districts. He said the high quality mineral sand found in the districts was being smuggled to Tamil Nadu by road and by boats.

Collectors and SPs attending the meeting said the law enforcement agencies were handicapped by the absence of adequate transport and communication facilities. Any move to launch a crackdown was communicated to the target area in time for the sand miners to take evasive action and escape the dragnet, they said.

Officials said the permits issued by the Mining and Geology Department for extraction of laterite soil were often misused for river sand-mining. They observed that high power pumps were pressed into service to suck up sand from paddy fields and waterlogged areas on the banks of rivers.

At many places, riverbanks were being dug up for sand, leaving deep trenches. This had altered the topography in some areas, the officials said. They also said that members of local bodies were in collusion with the sand-mining mafia.

Thiruvananthapuram District Collector N. Ayyappan called for regulation on the sale of riverside property to discourage the diversion of land for sand-mining.

He called for the setting up of a strike force to curb it. Many officials proposed that the river management funds be used for the crackdown on sand-mining.

Home Secretary Lizzie Jacob, Director General of Police Raman Srivastava and Land Revenue Commissioner Nivedita P. Haran were present at the meeting.

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