What’s the Real Problem & What’s the Solution to End Sand Extraction Issue in Udupi Dist?
Udupi: The issues of sand extraction have become a boiling issue in the Udupi district. Many organizations, political leaders, builders, businessmen and construction workers are expressing their anger against Deputy Commissioner Priyanka Mary Francis. But the reality is different! In the meantime, Mangalorean.com is on the verge to find out the reality of this never-ending sand extraction problem in the district.
According to the Deputy Commissioner, every year the monsoon ends during the first week of August- and once it ends, the sand extraction activities commence in the district. But this year due to incessant rainfall until September, the sand extraction process has been delayed. As per the rule, once the monsoon season ends, the survey process should begin but this year due to the longer period of rainfall, such survey couldn’t be conducted-hence all the delay.
During the first meeting held on 8 August 2018, fishermen were asked to identify the sand blocks that posed threat for their fishing boats. MoEF’s regulations, dated June 9, 2011, allowed identification of sandbars posing a threat to the navigation of fishing boats. But the fishermen failed to submit details on sand blocks and later a committee was set up under the assistant commissioner to identify the sand bars.
A new CRZ map had been drafted by an expert team set up by the Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoEF) on September 27, 2018. The team had identified critical vulnerable areas in the CRZ. The map forbids any sort of sand mining activities in entire Kundapur taluk, which also includes Byndoor, as it posed a threat to fish breeding, coral reefs and marine biodiversity.
The administration has decided to go for a bathymetry survey of riverbeds in CRZ areas to assess the quantum of excess sand that may be extracted ‘to facilitate smooth movement of the fishing boats.’ The Dakshina Kannada District administration had also held the bathymetry survey. Through this survey, one can measure the depth of the water body and map underwater features through different methods. This survey is widely used for research including flood inundation, water contour, leakage etc.
Following the row over the shortage of sand, the district administration had submitted a proposal seeking permission for extraction of sand from the sand blocks in CRZ areas recently. The Karnataka State Coastal Zone Management Authority and Department of Forest, Environment and Ecology have given the green signal for the extraction of sand from sand blocks identified in the CRZ areas in Udupi and Brahmavar taluks in the district.
The authorities concerned have given the approval for sand extraction and also issued guidelines in this regard. The district administration had identified nine sand blocks in Udupi and Brahmavar taluks, of which, permission has been given for sand extraction in seven blocks. The authorities have given permission for sand extraction in 7 blocks. It is estimated that about 6000 Metric tonnes of sand would be available in these 7 blocks.
The real fact is that the Deputy Commissioner failed to convince the political and association leaders of the legal issues in sand mining from the early days. Now when the sand situation issue has gone from bad to worse, it is time that the deputy commissioner takes up the issue very seriously and not drag it furthermore, thereby putting the consumer in hardship and inconvenience. At present no one is ready to believe the truth which is yet another problem.
What are the CRZ Criteria for Sand Extraction?
“On 8 November 2011, the union ministry of Environment and Forests had issued Notifications on the removal of sand in CRZ Zone areas of rivers through manual methods by traditional communities. The district commissioner should chair a seven-member committee consisting of, concerned officials and at least one representative from a scientific or technical Institute and the local communities like the fishermen and local civil society”.
The accumulation of sandbars, the process of removing sand etc., should be studied by the State Government with the help of satellite imagery’s, GPS etc. It should ensure that the permits are not accorded in such areas which are identified as eco-sensitive zones, fish migratory and breeding grounds etc. The permits should be given taking into consideration the local circumstances and ecological settings.
Deputy Commissioner Scaring the National Green Tribunal?
In 2016, Udaya Suvarna and a few other residents of Baikady and Kukkude villages near Brahmavar in Udupi taluk approached the National Green Tribunal against Illegal Sand Extraction in Udupi district. The National Green Tribunal (Southern Zone), Chennai, has banned sand mining in the rivers that fall under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) areas in Udupi district on May 17, 2016.
The tribunal said: “In the interest of the environment, we pass an order of injunction restraining the respondents and their subordinates from taking any steps towards issuance of sand mining permits in any manner to extract sand in the rivers in Udupi District which are located in the CRZ area until further orders from the Tribunal.” Then the tribunal had allowed to clear the sandbars under strict regulations in Udupi district.
In 2017, Udaya Suvarna once again approached the National Green Tribunal against the Illegal Sand Extraction in Udupi district. Although there is currently no stay for sand extraction, the application is under investigation. In this regard the deputy commissioner, Priyanka Mary Francis took alternative steps in issuing the order for sand extraction in Udupi district. She is following the guidelines issued by the NGT without violating any laws but acting accordingly.
The district Construction Materials Transport Vehicles Owners and Drivers Association and other various organizations had joined hands to protest against the delay in the process of initiating measures to extract sand in the district. Hundreds of sand trucks and Lorries were parked all over the national highway that passes through the district including the DC Office road and Manipal-Udupi stretch. The agitators wanted to block the DC Office road by parking the lorries and trucks. However, the police prevented them from doing so by placing barricades. The police had also stopped several Lorries and trucks from participating in the protest.
After the protest by the truck owners, the deputy commissioner finally decided to write to the state government, listing the demands of lorry owners protesting against the delay in sand mining in the district. According to the Lorry Owners’ Association, seven sand blocks have been identified in the CRZ areas. It is estimated that 17,526 metric tonnes of sand is available in these blocks. The availability of sand in these blocks is insufficient to meet the demands of the district. In addition, the prices of sand will increase due to non-availability of sand.
The deputy commissioner said that the association has requested for simultaneous identification of blocks in CRZ and non-CRZ areas and issue permits accordingly. She also said that the state government’s attention has been drawn to bring amendments to the Karnataka Minor Mineral Concessions Rules to identify sand blocks minimum in one acre land in non-CRZ areas. “We have also urged the state government to reduce the area under ecologically sensitive areas (CRZ areas) in Kundapur and Byndoor,” she added.
DC also said that the government should introduce amendments to ensure that the tendering process is started at the Gram Panchayat level, a system which existed five years ago. Currently, the tendering process takes place at the district or taluk centers. Now the DC has sought three-weeks time to solve the problem. If everything goes on smoothly, the sand extraction will resume soon in Udupi district. Until then everyone has to keep their fingers crossed!