Sand mining threatens Jhelum embankments

Suhail Bhat
SRINAGAR, Apr 22: Unabated sand mining in river Jhelum and movement of heavy machinery used for extraction and transportation of sand has threatened the embankments.
The tippers waiting to load the sand on the Jhelum banks are a common sight in several areas including Kakapora, Pampore, Sempora, Athwajen and Pathrethan.  Several tippers can also be seen transporting the mined sand on temporary roads cut through these embankments. It damages the banks and puts the entire region vulnerable to inundation.
The locals of several areas alleged that the miners carry out illegal mining in connivance of I&FC officials. “It is impossible to carry out mining and transport the material with such impunity without the help of officials,” a local said, adding the authorities concerned are deliberately turning a blind eye to the unlawful act.
According to locals, the unabated mining of river bed for extended stretches has weakened the embankments.
“The uncontrolled plunder of sand in the river Jhelum has put extra pressure on the embankments and continuous movement of heavy machinery has damaged it. The ravaged embankment of Sempora wherein the sand miners have cut an entire portion of the embankment to extract the underneath sand highlights the seriousness of the issue,” Bilal Ahmad, a local from Somerbug area said, adding the digging has created huge craters on the embankments and that can prove fatal any time.
He added at several places the illegal digging have also caused destruction to the protection walls which were constructed by the government to protect the river from eroding the embankment. “The protection walls were constructed after the 2014 floods. They were constructed to support the weak embankments and minimize chances of a breach but rampant mining has also damaged them,” Mohammad Ashraf, a local said, adding the it was because of this illegal excavation the caving of embankment at the Lasjan area of Srinagar took place in the month of January.
Executive Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control, Ghulam Hassan Sofi, said his division has to take care of nearly 44 kilometres from Anantnag to Pampore and it is understaffed. “We are understaffed when it comes to enforcement of the rules. Dealing with the miners is very tough and at times police are called to nab the violators. Recently they along with the local administration launched a joint drive wherein 50 challans were registered”, he said.
He further said that the department is trying its best to stop the illegal act but it is facing several challenges. “At Chechkoot area of Anantnag a miner moved to the Court. The court gave a decision in his favor. In most of the cases the roads run parallel to the mining sites and it is hard to know which vehicle is used to ferrying the material,” he said adding low water level in the Jhelum has also helped miners.