Illegal Sand Mining In India
Sand mining is the extraction of sand through an open pit but sometimes mined
from inland dunes from oceans ,riverbeds and beaches. It is defined under section
3(e) of mines and mineral development and regulation act,1957(mmdr act) .this
law has been implemented by the government to prevent illegal mining. Sand is
often used for manufacturing, for example construction purposes and as an
abrasive . According to the geological survey of India (GSI), river bed mining
causes a lot of alterations to the physical characteristics of both river and
riverbed . These can give huge impact towards the ecosystem and effect the
habitat of the plants, animals, riparian. In sand mining they extract minerals
such as Rutile, illmenite and zircon which contains useful elements titanium and
zirconium .In India estimated consumption of cement is about 324 million tons,
and for each tonne of cement ,the building industry needs about 7-8 times more
tons of sand and gravel .This problem is been a very serious issue in the case
of river in the southern west coast of India, especially Kerala ,where rivers
are small with limited bed resources .On an average ,about 8,000 loads of sand
are being illegally mined from he major riverbed like Araniyar, Kosasthalaiyar
and Palar, the Cauvery delta region and along the Thamirabarani river .Illegal
sand mining is a perennial problem in India .The mine owners and hoarders try to
dig out as much sand as possible ,through illegal means ,in the pre-monsoon
months. There are no official figures for the amount of sand mined illegally.
But in the year 205-2016,there was over 19,000 cases of illegal mining of minor
minerals, which include sand, in the country, said Piyush Goyal, former minister
A per he union ministry of mines, and is he fourth most important minor mineral
in terms of production after road metals, building stone and brick earth .Yet
the government does not collect data on the volume of illegal mined sand.
Then-regulated sand mining has resulted in the erosion of the river banks
resulting in increased flooding and causing a severe threat to biodiversity.
Environmentalists have raised public awareness of illegal sand mining in the
states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh And Goa of India.
In a recent the cases of illegal sand mining has been increased and here might
be a complete ban on river mining in near future ,in the last three years alone,
seven to eight cases have been booked by various agencies on a average everyday.
“The sand we are extracting from the riverside was formed millions of years ago.
We are a a stage where river sand may no longer be available. we are already
losing biodiversity. extraction of sand will further destroy it .In order to put
an end to river and mining, the state government is likely to ban it in the next
few years and encourage use of manufactured sand" as per the officials. In Tamil
Nadu illegal sand mining may be a scam worth Rs1 lakh crore, likewise a whopping
98.87 lakh metric tonnes of minerals were illegally excavated in a period of
five years in five Rajasthan districts. Rajasthan has rich reserve of cooper,
lead, zinc, rock phosphate, sand which are found in the aravalli mountain range.
Around 98.87 lakh metric tonnes of minerals were found to have been illegally
excavated (2011-2012 to 2016-2017).
Impact On The Environment By Illegal And Mining
Sand is an important economic resource and also a source of silica for making
sodium silicate, a chemical compound used for manufacture of both common and
optical glasses. The economic aspect of sand are not confined to it value as raw
material. Besides is economic importance, sand also constitutes an important
biotic component in aquatic ecosystem like rivers. sand mining is an activity
referring to the process of the actual removal of sand from the rivers,
riverbeds and beaches. Depletion of sand in the streambed and along coastal
areas causes the deepening of rivers and estuaries, and the enlargement of river
mouths and coastal in let. Any volume of sand exported from the streambeds and
coastal areas is a very big loss to the system . The sand mining effects the
adjourning ground water system and the uses that local people make from the
river. The main aspect is that i the destruction of aquatic and riparian habitat
through large changes in the channel morphonology and it also includes bed
degradation and bed coarsening. Further all species require specific habitat
conditions to ensure long-term survival. Native species in streams are uniquely
adapted to the habitat conditions that existed before humans began large-scale
alterations. These have caused major habitat disruptions that favoured some
species over others and caused overall declines in biological diversity and
productivity. In most streams and rivers, habitat o quality is strongly linked
to the stability of channel bed and banks. Unstable stream channels are
inhospitable to most aquatic species.
Factors that increase or decrease sediment supplies often destabilize bed and
banks and result in dramatic channel readjustments. For example, human
activities that accelerate stream bank erosion, such as riparian forest clearing
or in-stream mining, cause stream banks to become net sources of sediment that
often have severe consequences for aquatic species. Anthropogenic activities
that artificially lower stream bed elevation cause bed instabilities that result
in a net release of sediment in the local vicinity. Unstable sediments simplify
and, therefore, degrade stream habitats for many aquatic species. Few species
benefit from these effects.
Apart from it, sand mining transforms the riverbeds in large and deep pits as a
result the groundwater table drops leaving the drinking water wells on the
embankments of these dry rivers. Environment impact assessment (EIA) is an
activity designed to identify and predict the impact on the biological
environment and on social environment. EIA has been established worldwide as an
environmental management tool used by government agencies, companies and
organization. In its sand mining related environmental problems in the rivers
draining the vemband lake. Illegal sand mining in Rajasthan, 36 vehicle
impounded and they have mined from banas river on February 24,2018 the supreme court has said sand mining ban
has extended the sand mining till march 13,18 and issued notice to the state
Achankovil river is a main channel in the high land and its major environmental
problems are bank failure incidences, uproot in of the, damages to engineering
structure etc. The extent of degradation is low moderate only.
Pamba river is a main channel and tributaries in the highland, the environmental
causes were damages to riparian vegetation, in stream biota etc and its extent
of degradation is low when comparing to the other midland and lowland. Manimala
river is also a main channel and tributaries and it high land ,the environmental
issue here is river bank slumping, changes of channel morphmetry, etc and its
extent of degradation is low to moderate only.
Meenachil river i a main channel and in highland the effects here are
encroachments, river bank slumping, undermining. its level of extent of
degradation is low to moderate.
There few more rivers which are also been affected by the sand mining namely,
Muvattupuzha river, periyarriver, chalakudy river.
Steps Taken By Government Of India
Due to the sand mining there is more of effect on the ecosystem which will have
a severe impact on plants, animals and rivers. In February 2012 ,the supreme
court of India ruled that approval under the 2006 environment impact assessment
(EIA) notification is needed for all the sand miners collection activity, even
if the area being is less than 5 hectares. The main few features of illegal sand
mining are, sand was being dredged illegally and operations were taking place
during the monsoon mechanical dredgers and suction pumps which were deemed to be
illegal were used .even mangrove forests had been destroyed due to illegal
construction of storage docks, roads and other infrastructure to facilitate easy
removal and transferring of sand from the river. this has made Mumbai and other
regions very vulnerable for floods.
Some steps are taken in kerala government to control illegal sand mining,
Tahsildars have been asked to conduct raids, bring notice to the collector and
to seize the vehicles carrying sand.24*7 call complaints were added so that
public can register complaint regarding illegal and mining in the district.
The madras high court has disposed of public interest litigation (PIL) petition
seeking a direction to the state government to ban sand quarrying in the state
and to mandate use of M-sand (manufactured sand) as an alternative to river sand
in mainly construction activities ,The first bench of acting chief justice
huluvadi G. Ramesh and R. mahadevan directed the state government to take action
on the representation made by te petitioner in accordance with law. The state
government of Tamil Nadu issued a government order dated October 1,2003 making
the existing license ineffective and restricted the licences. Inspite of the
restrictions private contractors were exploiting the riverbed. the state shall
initiate appropriate and immediate action against the persons involved in
illegal mining, Transportation and storage in the state and proceed for the
permanent confiscation of vehicle involved in the illegal activites and
cancellation of the registration certificate of the vehicle, without any scope
for the owner of the vehicle.
For illegal sand mining, one can complain to police station or can inform
environment ministry. if one is found being involved in illegal sand mining he
might face harsh punishment. Even the police now have powers to cache hold on
illegal sand mining, they have the power to seize illegal sand mined or
Recently seven booked for illegal
sand mining in frazilka and fezozepur district on march 12,2018 and they were
arrested and the police seized the vehicle. Likewise In Punjab illegal sand
mining was spotted in the banks of Sutlej in phillaur and rahon. the illegal and
mining has become an issue in Punjab .Despite on the ban on using machines like
proclaim, jcb yet they have used for extracting more sand ,thus the state of
Punjab has to coordinate with the mining department and district administration
to ensure a complete end to Illegal mining across the state.
So even after the government has implemented steps the illegal mining is still
continued and They must amke it more effective so that they stop illegal sand
mining in India and the government is taking a serious decisions.
Recent: Stop Sand Mining, Madras High Court Rules
The Madurai bench of madras high court on November 30,2017 passed an order
directing the tamil nadu government to stop all sand quarrying and mining
activities within six month and not to open any sand quarries in the near
future. Its advised that thee government will provide the requirements to the
people in importing sand.
“the cort finds it appropriate to pass this order in large public interest to
protect the environment ,river beds and river bodies for the long term,the judge also mentioned that he urged the state government to take
decision to import river sand by the state owned corporation itself to mitigate
the shor supply of sand within the state.
The madras high court Madurai bench reserved its order on plea seeking complete
ban on sand quarry operations in cauvey and kollidam rivers in Tamil nadu.The
court said its stay over sand quarry operations in trichy and karur district will continue till the disposal of the case.
The division bench of justices KK Sasidharan and GR Swaminathan heard a batch of
pleas including one filed by president of Cauvery .neervala athara pathukappu
So after hearing the arguments from concerned sides, the court reserved its
Guidelines To Be Followed For Legal Sand Mining:
The prospecting mining operation should be under licence or lease- the lease
conditions must be contrary to the rules after the end of lease period, there
needs a renewal of lease for continuing mining. Exceeding the lease area, comes
under illegal mining of this act. After a premature termination of lease, there
is a need for seeking permission from State Government for the operative
mechanism of section 4(A)(1) of MMDRA, 1957.
District level committee has powers to terminate the lease or cancel it, after
consulting it with Central Government where it is expedient in the interest of
regulation of mines and minerals development, preservation of natural
environment, control of flood, prevention of pollution, or to avoid danger to
public health or communications or to ensure safety of buildings, monuments or
other structure or for such other purpose it may deem fit. But this rule is not
exhaustive there are other authorities which might govern the rule like Ministry
of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and National Green
India’s Suffers To Stop Unauthorized Sand Mining:
India’s sand mining problem is so prevalent that it has developed into black
market, that continues to exploit millions of tons of commodity annually, in the
open loot of the riverbeds, canals and beaches sand is being drained by illegal
means. According to Geological Survey of India, riverbeds mining cause several
alterations to the physical characteristics of both the river and the riverbeds,
which severely affect the ecological system of river plants and animals.
According to India’s construction industry Development council, this guides the
government on construction policy, which says that the country consumes 500
million tons of the commodities annually and that’s only the legally recorded
According to a report on ABC Foreign Correspondents, India’s sand business
employs over 35 million people and is valued at well over $126 billion per
annum. The supply problem could partially be attributed to the environmental
limitations imposed to protect ecosystem or due to the existence of illegal
means to create a supply chain.
India’s sand mining problem is so prevalent that it has developed into a black
market that continues to exploit millions of tons of this commodity annually, in
an open loot of the riverbeds, canals and beaches sand is being drained by
The illegal sand trade has significant consequences; the housing is becoming
unaffordable for the common man and the ecosystem is exploited for personal
gains of the ‘sand mafia’.
According to a recent report on ABC’s Foreign Correspondent, India’s sand
business employs over 35 million people and is valued at well over $126 billion
Rege’s research estimates that the sand mining black market could be generating
revenue of approximately US$16 to 17 million a month.
In one of country’s biggest scams, politicians and their business allies stand
hand in hand to exploit country’s booming construction industry
The supply problem could partially be attributed to the environmental
limitations imposed to protect ecosystem or due to the existence of ‘illegal
means’ to create a supply chain.
Although the Union Environment Ministry has taken some serious steps to curb the
problem by drafting guidelines in September 2015 on how to crackdown on the
illegal practices of sand mining but the problem remains far from being
In the northern state of Punjab, illegal mining has its own consequence.
The un-regulated sand mining has resulted in the erosion of the river banks
resulting in increased flooding and causing a severe threat to biodiversity.
Additionally, the state is failing to generate substantial revenue that is
spilling through illegal sand mining. Punjab’s current debt is about Rs. 1.12
Punjab’s newly elected chief minister Captain AmarinderSingh once said that the
sand mafia was robbing the state, by Rs 5 crore per day.
With names of top leaders of the previous SAD-BJP government linked with the
“sand mafia”, the newly elected government is expected to set a probe committee
to catch the people associated with its black marketing.
According to a NDTV report, four years ago, the Punjab and Haryana High Court
had ordered a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate illegal mining in
Last year, the court observed, "The officers of the state of Punjab are either
complicit or in connivance with persons responsible for illegal mining."
Sand mining contributes to construction of buildings, infrastructure
development, it helps in extracting minerals and provides both economic and
social benefits. Even though-intensive sand mining with disregard to
environmental protection erodes these gains and creates a series of
environmental problems. The regulatory agenda prepared for sand mining is
passive and these make enforcement difficult and complicated. Lack of clear
guidelines for dealing with sand mining operations coupled with inability of the
regulatory authorities’ results in unscrupulous sand mining activities and
Even though the government ha implemented steps to stop illegal sand mining and
produce an alternative by supplying manufacturing of sand ,yet there is still
illegal and mining happening.
Even though there are no specific guidelines followed as if now, but it is
suggested that local municipalities come up with bylaws to help preserve the
ecological beauty of their areas. Environmental awareness training should be
conducted for the communities in the vicinity of the extraction sites, there
should be a clear check maintained on the bodies, so that there is fear of
illegal sand mining. This will help in monitoring and enforcement of the bylaws
made for the development of the society. Studies focusing on the impacts of sand
mining on water quality, and the land affected by it, they should also monitor
the damage caused due to sand mining to workforce.
This will help the people and
the government authorities to know and understand the nature and severity of
impacts of sand mining on water quality in areas. ,I would like conclude my
article by saying Government should impose strict laws and they should stop
illegal sand mining ,so that we can protect our ecosystem.