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Rampant sand mafia robs rivers
Published on 30 Jan. 2011 12:26 AM IST
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Parched land, desiccated wells - signs of a severe drought but it’s craters like these on riverbeds across Maharashtra that are telling the tale of a man-made ecological disaster in the making.
The law prohibits sand mining below three feet, but illegal sand excavators dredge as deep as 30 feet and at most places until the riverbed is bereft of sand. The result is rocky and lifeless rivers which can’t absorb water leading to dead and buried wells.
Due to illegal sand excavation the complete layer of sand has vanished from the riverbed and the ground water table is plummeting to dangerously low levels, ominous signs for the future.
Farmer Bharat Perne said, “Earlier after digging just a few feet deep we used to get water but now even after digging 80 feet there is no water infact saline water. Sand worth 10 crores has been illegally excavated from this area alone.”
The illegal sand mining is making the river water unfit for human and animal consumption and threatening the livelihood of fisherfolks and farmers. What’s more, it is also believed to have weakened the foundation of several bridges.
Perne also stated, “This bridge was covered in 20 feet of sand from bottom, but it has been excavated illegally and now the foundation of this bridge is weak but trains are still running on it.”
Noted activist, Anna Hazare, who is on a vow of silence to protest the government’s apathy towards the problem, claims that everyday more than 2,000 truckloads of sand is being illegally excavated from rivers across Maharashtra. And the well-entrenched sand mafia swindling the sand for builders in cities makes no bones about the unflinching political support they enjoy.
A CNN-IBN team tracking the story was threatened as well. CNN-IBN team accompanied local authorities on a raid, but only a handful of the thousands of illegal trucks were seized. Vikas Pansare, Deputy Collecter, Ahmednagar said, “We conduct regular raids confiscate the trucks and impose fine.”
The Ghod River, which has completely gone dry not just depicts the vagaries of monsoons but is also a testimony of the irreparable damage done to the ecosystem due to rampant sand excavation.
Official attacked by sand mafia
Even as the dust has yet to settle over Malegaon Additional District Collector Yashwant Sonawane’s gruesome murder by the oil mafia, another government official was attacked in Maharashtra, this time by the sand mafia.
According to reports, revenue official Srinivas Patil was attacked by goons in Sangli for trying to stop illegal sand mining.
The attack took place earlier this week.
Srinivasan was attacked with stones by three men while he was chasing a truck full of sand on his motorcycle.
The police have arrested the three suspects.
Yashwant Sonawane was burnt alive by members of the oil mafia in Nashik district on Tuesday.

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