Sand mining for power projects devours rich paddy fields in Himachal

Shimla: Short on arable land, much of the prized paddy fields in Himachal laid out by thousands of years of rivers sedimentation are fast being eroded by sand mining to meet construction needs around large hydropower projects.

With the revenue authorities stepping aside about the damage to agricultural lands being done around big construction projects, the mining authorities are in a bind in maintaining a vigil as large scale violations go unchecked.

Putting the ball in court of the mining department, principal secretary revenue Deepak Sanan says, “the revenue department does not regulate land use change and it is the concerned department which needs agriculture land for its usage that applies for the purpose.”

Spelling out the state policy, state geologist Arun Sharma says, “mining for minor minerals such as sand is permitted on un-irrigated, barren or fallow lands but it is not allowed on irrigated lands.”

Rich paddy fields laden waste by sand mining

Sources in the industry department revealed that enforcing the mining laws about extracting stones or sand from river beds or the rich alluvial fields on the banks was a tough task as illegal mining and theft was hard to check.

When pointed out that sand mining along Luhri and Rampur in Satluj River valley was consuming precious irrigated lands, Sharma said, “no complaint has been received but the issue would be looked into and if any violations are noticed they would be checked immediately.”

All licenses for extracting minor minerals such as sand are given after a joint inspection by mining authorities and the sub-divisional officers,” he said.

“With millions of tons of sand needed for concrete structures at large hydropower projects, its the river beds and the sand based paddy fields in valley basins that have been relentlessly exploited to fulfill the demand,” says Guman Singh convener of the environmental group Himalaya Abhiyan Niti.

“We are against all such mining activities and have made representations before state authorities. Damage done by mining for Kol Dam construction at Hatgarh near Sundernagar is a live case for anybody to see,” said Singh.

The hill state is short in agriculture lands, deficient in food grains production and change of agriculture land for non-agriculture usage such as sand mining would only aggravate the situation, he said.

Photo: Ravinder Makhaik

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