Illegal extraction of construction material goes on unabated in southern Kashmir

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 a blanket ban on illegal extraction and unlawful mining from all sorts of riverbeds, nallahs, water bodies, tributaries, and soil from karewas in any form and by any method.

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

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

Greater Kashmir found that at least six sensitive sites are being 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 the indiscriminate extraction from the streams has left the nearby residential areas more prone to floods and has damaged the adjoining roads, streets and bunds besides causing noise pollution in these areas.

“Everyday dozens of heavy load carriers are extracting tones of stones for about five to six hours. Heavy vehicles including tippers, tractors and JCB machines are used by the contractors,” said Ghulam Hassan who lives close to Watal Ara Tral.

Residents in the areas also allege a nexus between “mafia and some government agencies”.

“This has endangered the embankments of the streams across southern areas,” said Nazir Ahmad, a resident of Pulwama, adding the government had already failed to reconstruct bunds damaged during 2014 floods.

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

“Government should act immediately else our future will turn bleak. We are not only destroying precious resources but are inviting the wrath of nature through floods and other natural calamities,” said Reyaz Ahmad Shah, an environmental expert.

“The extraction of sand, stones and boulders not only cause loss to mineral deposits but also changes the bed leveling of these streams which also change its course in wake of a flood,” said an official of geology and mining department.

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

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

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

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

“But then they approach politicians for their release. Mere police cannot do anything unless other concerned departments cooperate,” a police officer said.

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

“We cannot stop the illegal extraction unless people, police and other concerned departments cooperate with us,” the official told Greater Kashmir.