Illegal extraction of construction material goes on unabated in southern Kashmir

Representational Pic
Representational Pic

Illegal extraction of sand, stones and boulders from water bodies and streams across southern Kashmir is going on unabated despite a ban on unauthorised extraction of the construction material.

Last month district administration of Pulwama issued ablanket ban on illegal extraction and unlawful mining from all sorts ofriverbeds, nallahs, water bodies, tributaries, and soil from karewas in anyform and by any method.

The order was issued in compliance with judgments of SupremeCourt and J&K High Court in accordance with environmental rules andregulations.

The administration, however, has been unable to implementits own orders as extraction continues right under its nose across southernKashmir districts.

Greater Kashmir found that at least six sensitive sites arebeing vandalized by the practice as of now, where the extraction of sand,stones and boulders is going on round the clock.

The sites include Watal Ara Tral, Romshi Ara Pulwama,Larkipora, Aung Matipora Anantnag, Ashmuji Kulgam and Rambiara Shopian.

People living close to these streams complain that theindiscriminate extraction from the streams has left the nearby residentialareas more prone to floods and has damaged the adjoining roads, streets andbunds besides causing noise pollution in these areas.

"Everyday dozens of heavy load carriers are extractingtones of stones for about five to six hours. Heavy vehicles including tippers,tractors and JCB machines are used by the contractors," said Ghulam Hassan wholives close to Watal Ara Tral.

Residents in the areas also allege a nexus between "mafiaand some government agencies".

"This has endangered the embankments of the streams acrosssouthern areas," said Nazir Ahmad, a resident of Pulwama, adding thegovernment had already failed to reconstruct bunds damaged during 2014 floods.

Environmental experts express serious concern at theunabated practice, saying it portends environmental destruction.

"Government should act immediately else our future will turnbleak. We are not only destroying precious resources but are inviting the wrathof nature through floods and other natural calamities," said Reyaz Ahmad Shah,an environmental expert.

"The extraction of sand, stones and boulders not onlycause loss to mineral deposits but also changes the bed leveling of thesestreams which also change its course in wake of a flood," said an officialof geology and mining department.

Farmers also say that persistent extraction has weakenedprotection of their orchards and farms which are located close to theembankments of the streams.

Despite assurances from authorities that the illegaldestructive activity would be stopped extraction has continued unabated,residents in many areas say.

They allege that authorities have not bothered to assess thescale of damage by conducting site inspections.

Police officials said that they have arrested many loadcarrier drivers in connection with the illegal extraction.

"But then they approach politicians for their release.Mere police cannot do anything unless other concerned departmentscooperate," a police officer said.

A senior official of Irrigation and Flood Control Departmentsaid that fine is collected almost every day through challans, and dozens ofvehicles have been seized and handed over to police.

"We cannot stop the illegal extraction unless people, policeand other concerned departments cooperate with us," the official told GreaterKashmir.

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