Install CCTV cameras around Rivers, Karewas

Geology & Mining Department is earning huge revenue but has failed to even instal CCTVs around mining blocks
Install CCTV cameras around Rivers, Karewas
Representational Pic

In a landmark judgement the Bombay High Court’s Goa bench, in September 2021, slammed the state police for having failed to curb the illegal sand mining in Goa as the rivers in this tiny state have been plundered by the sand mafia. The high court directed the police to seize and destroy unregistered canoes and impound the trucks which illegally transport sand, and also directed to install closed circuit tv cameras - CCTVs

The authorities, who were duty-bound to prevent this sand mining, do not appear to be seriously interested in implementing the orders made by us from time to time. According to us, the persons involved in illegal sand mining are out to hoodwink the authorities. Unfortunately, we find that in many cases even the authorities appear to be too eager to be hoodwinked,” Justices M.S. Sonak and M.S. Jawalkar said in their order, while hearing a petition filed by a local NGI Goa Foundation .

On the direction of High Court’s order issued in 2016 the Uttar Pradesh Govt has not only installed CCTV cameras around mining areas, particularly around rivers which are prone to illegal sand mining, but even drones have been procured by the Geology & Mining Department of UP to check the illegal sand mining in the state. The Madras High Court in its February 2018 order also directed for installation of CCTVs to control illegal sand mining in the state especially around Cauvery and Coleroon river beds in Trichy and Karur districts.

Illegal Riverbed & Clay Mining in J&K

From Kupwara to Kathua and Padder to Poonch and Tangmarg to Tral the illegal riverbed mining and even clay mining has destroyed our rivers, streams, nallahs and karewas. But Govt of Jammu & Kashmir is not taking stringent steps to streamline this whole process by ensuring transparency and accountability. The illegal mining activities in J&K not only violates the Jammu and Kashmir Minor Mineral Concession, Storage and Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules 2016 also known as J&K Mineral Rules 2016, but also goes against Environmental Clearance (EC) guidelines of the Government of India Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) which are supervised in every state and UT through State Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs). There are two categories of people who do riverbed mining. One, the Project Proponents (contractors) who have been allotted the mining blocks in riverbeds through e- auction. Another group of people are those who have no permission at all. With regard to clay mining in Karewas, this activity is totally illegal and no valid permission is given by any environmental agency. The Project Proponents are also seen violating specific conditions on which Environmental Clearance (EC) is granted to them by J&K State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (JKSEIAA).

50% Discount not given

As per specific guideline No. 5 of the minutes of meeting for Environmental Clearance given by J&K State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority, river bed mining material (RBM) like Bajri, Boulders, Muck and Gravel is to be sold on a 50% discount to local population within 2 kms radius of mining blocks. However, this is not being done within or outside of the 2 Km radius in J&K.

Local populations living near Doodh Ganga and Shali Ganga streams in Budgam district are forced to get this material at exorbitant rates. The Department of Geology and Mining is also heedless of it and is giving a deaf ear to these issues of people.This has been facilitating a mining mafia in the region. The sand, gravel or a boulder truck load was sold at an average rate of Rs 5000 to 6000 few years back and as per EC norms, the same should have been available @ Rs 3000 in the areas (50 % discount) where river bed mining is done such as Romshi, Vaishav, Jhelum, Doodh Ganga or Shali Ganga. Instead, this material is being sold at the rates of Rs 13000 to 16,000 per truck (tipper). Additionally, the material which is to be sold locally but the same is transported to other areas and districts which is completely illegal. From Doodh Ganga and Shali Ganga mining sites of Chadoora and Panzan areas of Budgam district, the RBM is taken to areas of Srinagar and Pulwama. The Project Proponents (PPs) who have been allotted mining contracts in J&K are selling river bed materials (RBM) to stone crushing units at very high rates. All this is of course illegal.

Use of technology , CCTV cameras

The specific condition No. 30 of Environmental Clearance guidelines calls upon the Geology and Mining Department to use technology like Bar Coding, Information and Communication Technology and web-based services, SMS applications to account for weight of minerals being taken out of the mining block and the number of trucks moving out with the mineral. This condition is also violated as there are no technological arrangements/communications on ground. The Geology & Mining Department has failed to install CCTVs around Mining areas. I have been following this entire illegal trade for almost 2 years now around Doodh Ganga and Shali Ganga rivers. In a mining block where 20 trucks of riverbed material -RBM are to be lifted in a day, the Geology & Mining Department officials allow lifting of more than 150 trucks. Had there been CCTVs installed this whole activity would have been recorded

Mining in Night Hours

Specific Condition No. 38 stresses upon the Project Proponents not to carry out any mining activity before 9 am and after 6pm. On the other hand, here, illegal mining starts during night hours only. Huge JCBs are seen excavating RBM until midnight and trucks can be seen moving around the surrounding villages near river mining area for the whole night. This is a routine, yet no Government authority flags and stops this loot and plunder. The Irrigation and Fisheries Departments passes on the buck to the Geology and Mining Department, who further blame the District Administration or the Police. They further pass on the buck to other Govt organisations. This way the plunder carries on unabated.

Using JCBs, L&T Cranes

Specific Condition No. 53 stresses on manual mining and giving jobs to local labourers. The said guideline says JCBs, Hydraulic excavators, L&T excavators cannot be used in river bed mining (RBM) at all. The guideline reads:

“Mining shall be done manually minimally supported by semi-mechanized methods. Heavy machinery like JCBs , Excavators , L&T hydraulic excavators etc should not be allowed. Emphasis should be given to locally available labour force to address socio economic condition of locals.”

There is not even a single riverbed mining block across J&K where minerals are extracted manually by labourers. In every river and stream one can see huge hydraulic L&T cranes and JCBs being used for this work. The excavation is done in broad daylight and the Geology and Mining Department, State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) have been unable to put an end to this illegal practice. These practices have been reported several times but have been ignored. It has to be understood that these guidelines have actually been proposed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) Govt of India. The Supreme Court of India & National Green Tribunal (NGT) as well have given several orders in this regard. Infact, guideline No.71 says that mineral blocks cannot be sublet to third parties without written approval from JKEIAA but in a majority of the cases the Project Proponents have already sublet the work to 3rd parties. JKSEIAA is well aware of all this but is not acting at all.


The lack of CCTV based surveillance and the bypassing of technological checks are done to give a leeway for dubious dealings. This is done to ensure there is no transparency at all. Can the Geology & Mining Department explain why they have failed to install CCTV cameras around mining blocks especially around streams, rivers and karewas?

If shopkeepers, grocery store owners can be asked to install CCTV cameras in their shops, why isn’t this done in mining areas of J&K? If a state like UP can use drones and CCTV cameras to check illegal sand mining, why isn’t this done in an environmentally fragile Jammu & Kashmir where rivers, streams, mountains and Karewas are plundered by mining mafia who get all the support from several corrupt officials in different Govt law enforcing agencies.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Chairman RTI Movement and Anant Fellow for Climate Action , Anant National University Ahmedabad.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK. 

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