Illegal sand mining in the Sutlej River basin in Himachal Pradesh is on the rise. This unscientific and illegal method of sand queering is not only creating environmental hazards, but also, giving a fillip to corruption.
Local residents are disappointed, as influential people are easily queering sand, whereas they have to seek permission queering sand for their personal use.
As per data available with the Industry Department, as many as 3,875 cases of illegal sand mining have been registered so far, of which in 2,600 cases, fines were imposed. More than Rs. 2 crore has been collected as fine, while trials are on in the remaining cases.
Rajesh Sharma, Director, Himachal Pradesh Industry Department, told ANI: "The Industry Department is planning stringent norms and to intensify vigilance and raids on illegal sand queering here. The penalty has been increased. A tractor is fined Rs. 4,500, a truck with a capacity seven tonne is fined Rs. 7,000 and a truck with a capacity of more than 10 tonne is fined Rs. 25,000.
The increased penalty is helping minimise the illegal sand mining in the region."
Suman, a resident of Dutt Nagar area in Shimla district, alleged, "Illegal miners are getting protection from the mining officers, but the common people are not allowed to quarry sand in their own field for their personal uses like building construction etc. Despite repeated complaints by locals with the mining department, no actions are taken either by police or mining department officials, who are "bribed" by big miners. They only harass villagers."
Surat Negi, a tribal BJP leader, alleged, "The illegal sand mafia has grown during the past four years in stretch between Kinnaur and Rampur, which is resulting in environmental hazards to fragile mountains of Himalayas here. If mining officers try to stop this practice, they are transferred."
Hemant Sheilly, a local environmentalist, told ANI: "The environmentalists here are worried, as the illegal sand mining is harming the ecology of the region in the Sutlej River Basin. They feel that corruption is responsible for environmental degradation as the illegal mining is going on with the government's support.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)