Mining cries for ethics and ecology
Illicit mining is in full swing in many parts of Kashmir. There’s a need for strong
action, and also rules to ensure that mining of riverbed minerals is done as per technical and scientific requirements to ensure no damage to aquatic ecology of a stream or a river.
Agar firdaus bar-ru-e-zameen ast, hameen ast o hameen ast o hameen ast
AMIR Khusrau was far from wrong when he said Kashmir is a small heaven on earth.
A big tourist puller, Kashmir isn’t just famous for its Mughal Gardens, lush green meadows,
sky-kissing mountains, but also for its water resources. The springs and the rivers that flow
in Kashmir place it among the most famous tourist destinations on earth.
Water bodies, a boon
The abundance of water in Kashmir has fulfilled every need of its people. The water
bodies are not just a bounty to its people but also its other life forms. These also fill up the
most important wetlands which have been declared as Ramsar Sights. The abundance of water bodies in Kashmir has been responsible for even generating jobs for people and has been serving its people well through generations. But as was rightly said by Mahatma Gandhi – “there are enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed” – that unfortunately, has been the case with the water bodies lately.
Greed surfs new lows
Sand, boulders, bajri, clay, building stones, and minor mineral reserves are prevalent in
Kashmir. Boulders, a rich supply of minor minerals, are taken out of Jhelum basin’s perennial left and right bank tributaries and are used in building. Nonetheless, illicit mining is in full swing in many parts of Kashmir, including the Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian
and Kulgam districts in south Kashmir, thanks to lack of effective control by the authorities.
Jhelum and its major tributaries, including Doodh Ganga, Vaishav, Rambiara, Shali
Ganga, and other streams, are being destroyed by an organised mining mafia. Although
forbidden, heavy equipment like JCBs, L&Ts, and poclain cranes are used openly to remove
riverbed detritus. Illegal riverbed mining is creating havoc on the fragile ecosystem of the rivers and other water bodies. Due to the inability of the authorities to ensure that mineral resources are extracted scientifically, the water resources are getting damaged and the aquatic life in these bodies is also being exposed to damaging effects. For the purpose of mining in riverbeds, only semi-mechanised equipment is permitted, as
per the rules. To extract more mineral resources quickly, however, heavy machinery
is being employed.
Ajaz Rasool, an environmentalist and a hydraulic engineering
expert says: “All rivers and streams have a stable hydraulic regime which governs its
course and hydraulic parameters such as bed slope, width depth of flow etc. Any mining of
its minor minerals such as boulder, gravel and sand has to be done in consideration of the
entire regime of the river and its regenerative capacity of minor minerals. This is to be based on environmental impact assessment to avoid any damage to aquatic ecology of stream and its biotic life. The regenerative capacity of the stream or river to produce minor minerals is to be assessed on a holistic basis for its regime to decide how much and at which stretch it is to be removed. If this is not done in consideration of the above, it will adversely affect the hydraulic parameters and aquatic ecology of the river or stream which can cause erosion of sides during floods and even result in changing the course of a river at the cost of flooding living habitats on its banks or even washing away everything that comes in alignment of its redefined course. In Kashmir, contractors who have been allotted mining contracts for minor minerals, are overdoing the specified contracted quantities, while some also resort to illegal mining due to greed. Quantities specified for five years are mined right in the first year. Dual control of mining by the Geological Department and Irrigation and Flood Control Department aggravates the destruction on this count. The result is degradation of the hydraulic regime of a river or a stream and its aquatic ecology. Though vehicles, tractors and JCBs of contractors indulging in illegal mining or doing it illegally in the cover of night, have been ceased by the authorities concerned but such a deterrent hasn’t solved the problem and instances of illegal mining activity continue to be reported.
There is a need for additional strong action such as cancellation of contract or even heavy
fines on defaulters. It’s high time the mining of riverbed minerals in Kashmir was done as
per technical and scientific requirements established as per Environmental Impact
Assessment to ensure that the aquatic ecology of stream or river is not degraded”.