Illegal and unscientific mining practices going on at large scale in the district have led to a large scale damage to river bodies while the PHE department's infrastructure has also been affected with five stations considered to be worst affected ones. Taking into account the Geology and Mining (G&M) department's silence over the issue, the locals have also demanded a probe, alleging that the G&M department officials have been involved in the crime.
As per reports, the approved scientific plan put in place by G&M department has been unregulated in the district and large scale unscientific and illegal mining has been going on unabated in most of the river bodies. "The authorities have also received many complaints regarding unprofessional and unregulated mining in various river beds of the district, which is in complete violation of the approved plan," a source told Greater Kashmir.
He divulged that important public assets, like protection walls, dug-wells, roads and bridges as well as irrigation canals, have come under the direct risk due to the illegal mining practices. It has been learnt by Greater Kashmir that right from Gambhir Brahmana to Sunderbani and from Khandli bridge to Kalakote, in almost all the river bodies of the district, illegal and unscientific mining practices are going on unabated.
"Both manpower and machinery, including heavy machinery like chain machines and JCBs, have been put to use for mining from the river bed," another source told Greater Kashmir.
As per an official, mining carried out at Sangam, Badhoon, Palma, Darhali, Kallar and other areas has affected the sources as well as storage wells of PHE department, which has led to a major risk to important infrastructure of the department aimed to supply water to the masses. "PHE stations in all the five above mentioned areas are worst affected," he said.
He informed that the illegal mining practice can be gauged from the fact that on the river bed from Crusher Morh Tandwal to Deriyan, 500 metre of Suktoh river bed has been mined in a completely unscientific manner and now there is a risk to a water pumping station, a cremation ground and a private school building, while the river bed under the main bridge of Tandwal has also been put to unscientific mining, thereby posing a risk of the bridge.
"At some places, there are more than four feet deep pits in the river, which can lead to severe problems and drowning incidents in the days to come," the official said.
"Mining is prohibited in areas like flood embankment, 50 metre from periphery road, 500 metre upstream/downstream of bridges and water reservoirs/dug-wells, 20 metre upstream/downstream of water works and head works, 10 metre from flood embankment, but all these norms have been put on the stake in the district," the official further said.
He informed that sensing gravity of the situation, the local district administration also convened a meeting wherein it was decided to establish a central control room in the office of Deputy Commissioner to coordinate and take prompt action against persons and organizations involved in illegal extraction in notified areas. It was also decided to book contractors, proprietors of stone crushers, owners of load carriers wherever illegal mining is reported in prohibited zones.
In the meeting, it was decided that in view of brazen violation of mining rules, a joint team of Revenue, Police, Rural Development, PHE, Irrigation and mining departments will conduct test inspections to book the culprits in view of reports of extraction done beyond the limit of 3 metre and in prohibited areas.
It was also decided to launch a public awareness campaign so that general public can act as a whistleblower in case of any illegal mining.
Meanwhile, people of Rajouri have demanded a probe in the matter to fix the responsibility of officers involved in the crime.
"It is not a small issue. We can say that river bodies of the district have been mercilessly murdered and officers of G&M department continue to be mute spectators. We suspect that both senior officers of department as well as concerned Ministry are hand in glove with the illegal miners and a central investigation agency should be asked to probe the matter," the locals, including Mohammed Sadiq, Noor Mohammed, Girdhari Lal and others alleged.
They said that the world is talking about environment conservation and we are murdering our natural resources with "due involvement of the government."
"The Chief Minister should come forward and clear the stand of her government as to whether they are in support of illegal mining or against it. If it is the latter, then stern action should be initiated," the locals demanded.