No let-up in illegal mining in Reasi, Arnas; Illegal mining goes on even in the land that belongs to Salal Hydel Project of the NHPC

illegal mining
illegal mining in River

Sarbjeet Singh,  Tawi, March 15:

Despite a recent crackdown and all-out efforts of the district civil and police administration, the illegal mining of minor minerals- sand, bajri and gravels in Salal and Arnas areas of Reasi district has been going on in full swing despite opposition by local residents and environmentalists.

The menace which had been on its peak upto 2020 and 2021, however, has observed some slide but keeps its momentum till date.

It was earlier expected that the new government would adopt a tough posture against the mining mafia in the region, but there is little improvement since it is now over three years since the Union Territory Administration took control.

All rivers and rivulets and a few spots from the river Chenab are Himana, Kanthan and Arnas, while from the river Ans it is the Arnas main, Tadoeva,  Keeeyee, Narloo, Palapadi and Chenkah and a few points on Nallah Rud are prone to illegal mining. Several tippers and tractors can be seen engaged in illegal mining. The result: a number of natural water resources have dried up, the water level in local rivulets has gone down and rivers are changing course, which sometimes leads to flooding.

The state agencies, particularly the Mining Department, have not earmarked with flags the areas where mining is permissible, as directed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the state government.

At present, there is no proper demarcation of land permitted for mining. Owners of fleets and a few stone crushers are extracting raw material from rivers and rivulets illegally and the material is being supplied within a vast area comprising Reasi, Poonch and Rajouri districts.

The villagers near the extraction spots questioned whether the Mining Department should explain how stone crushers and extractors manage power supply or install generators and produce building material without valid documents.

Deputy Commissioner Reasi Babila Rakwal said that there are 34 such block centers in Reasi district where mining work is going on and their timing has also been set. It is possible that after that time there may be mining in some areas.
This can be curbed entirely only when the local people come forward and inform the administration about it.
She said that the administration is working hard on this and in the last few years it has been controlled to a large extent.
She admitted that it is difficult to stop illegal mining due to a lack of manpower.  She said that it is a complicated task for administrative officers to monitor day and night.  She said that if illegal mining is monitored through satellite, then it can be curbed.

SSP Reasi, Amit Gupta told the Northlines that Reasi Police is committed to protecting the public property & ‘Rights of Consumers' and to enforcing genuine rates of goods and services in its jurisdiction. Police are also committed to eradicating the menace of illegal mining and other mining-related issues in the area.
While giving the details, he said that incidents of illegal mining at Nambla Reasi, one Tractor without a registration number and two Dumpers bearing registration numbers JK02DC 4809 and JK20B 3657 were seized. In another incident of illegal mining at Saiter Nallah, a Dumper bearing registration number JK11B 5867 and one Tractor bearing registration number JK20A 9907 were seized. In Chassana block, an incident of illegal mining was reported and Tractor trolley bearing registration number JK20B 4526 was seized. In Arnas area, Tractor trolley bearing registration number JK20B 3967 was involved in illegal mining was seized.

However, Bhushan Parimoo, President of Awareness Forum (NGO), while lauding the recent efforts of police by launching a crackdown and arresting a few operatives, said that the success seemed short-lived and beyond a point even the district administration became helpless and since the strings are connected to higher-ups in the hierarchy.

Locals, whose lands were acquired under the Land Acquisition Act by the JK Government for the Salal Project of NHPC, and a few NGOs questioned the right of District Administration and G&MD for permitting mining in areas that do not belong to the state. According to them, while the acquisition process was done, no hand-over and take-over of the land were done and the revenue officials later tempered the revenue records to show the transferred land as state land.  They termed the permission of extraction of minor minerals in some pockets as illegal.

Bhushan said that various representations were given to the  Chairperson of the Task Force to oversee the extraction of minor minerals as per  Enforcement &  Monitoring  Guidelines for sand mining as per  Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change January 2020. Apart from it the then Lt Governor, Chief Secretaries, Commissioner, Director of Geology and Mining, State Anti-Corruption Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation, Jammu and concerned Police officials were approached through multiple representations but all efforts came to nought. He demanded a high-level probe into the whole gamut of affairs to expose the truth.

A local member of a nearby Panchyat on anonymity said that a nexus between the Mafia and the caucus of the Departments, from the Revenue, Mining, Police, Pollution Control Board, Forests and the concerning Panchayats facilitate illegal mining to extract minor minerals such as sand, Bajri and Boulders worth crores from the river beds unhindered that falls under Salal Dam. Approach roads have been constructed at will through Forests without any legal permission. Daily hundreds of dumpers are pressed into service to carry these minor minerals clandestinely excavated.

This illegal operation goes on unabated for a long time, from the areas under the legitimate jurisdiction of the National Hydroelectric Project Corporation, a Government of undertaking. Acquired under J&K Land Acquisition Act for the construction of Salal Dam to generate Hydroelectricity over the river Chenab, dozens of villages, communication links, bridges etc were submerged as the water sheet spread over approximately 9.35 Sq kms.

Residents have been raising genuine concerns to bring to a halt this illegal loot of minor minerals and calls for the booking of all those involved in this criminal conspiracy. Engaged to loot and damage the property that belongs to the Nation. Stressing such activities should have been done with legal sanctity and proper approval under the rules. Above all, it should have been in tune with the Environment Protection laws and for good which is not so, ignoring to the hilt the basic parameters to be adhered to strictly conspicuously missing.