India: Illegal sand mining flourishes in Bangalore

India: Illegal sand mining flourishes in Bangalore

Mines and Geology is one of the many portfolios that Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy is in charge of. As he battles bribery allegations over illegal iron ore mining in Bellary, there’s another form of mining that’s flourishing illegally in the state.

Sand mining has resulted in ecological degradation and despite several checks it continues unabated thanks to ample help from local officials.

For 30-year-old Nagesh and other farmers like him, this has become a lucrative business. Local contractors are luring farmers to amass sand, which is then sent to Bangalore. Mounds of sand on the banks of Arkavathy River are a common sight.

“Earlier we used to bring bullock carts to take sand, then trucks came and now this boat which takes all the sand to Bangalore,” Nagesh said.

Near the Arkavathy River a dredging machine sucks out the sand from the riverbed and throws it into the bank from where it is collected by trucks and transported to Bangalore.

This has resulted in the shrinking of the riverbed by 15 feet.

The government auctions land for sand mining periodically, but unscrupulous contractors freely mine sand even after the stipulated period is over.

“Since heavy demand is there in Bangalore, therefore naturally sand mining is going on at an alarming rate. Local consumption is too little it won’t affect the environment,” senior geologist, Department of Mines and Geology, Dr B N Shankar said.

Last October, the Department of Mines and Geology had seized 500 tons of sand, filed 200 cases against illegal miners and collected Rs 14 lakh as penalty.

Meanwhile, farmers like Joseph are also doing their bit. Joseph had filed a PIL in the Karnataka High Court three years back against illegal sand mining near his farm and finally got a stay order.

“The mining contract was given and it ended in June 2004 but maybe it’s the connivance of the local officials,” Joseph said.

However, a truck could be seen collecting sand from the very area, for which Joseph had got a stay, notwithstanding the court order.

It seems court orders mean nothing to the mining mafia in Bangalore.

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