Riverbed mining: An unfolding disaster

by WebDesk
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Over the years, irreparable loss has been done to J&K’s rivers and streams from rather indiscriminate extraction of construction grade river bed material (Sand, gravel, cobbles and boulder) creating multiple environmental, ecological and social disasters. The recent empowerment of local governance structures in deciding localised mining is not helpful either.
While in recent years, there has been a lot of focus on climate change factors of frequent floods and flash floods in J&K, what has been overlooked is the direct result of indiscriminate riverbed mining being the single largest factor in causing flash floods and floods in J&K. Kashmir region, owing to its highly sensitive eco-system, has particularly been affected. Once amazingly pristine Rambiara, Vishaw, Lidder, SIndh, Doodhganga, Sukhnag, Shali Ganga, Madhumati, Nallah Mawar are some of the major rivers and streams that have been devastated.
The National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) recent actions in restraining such mining activity in one or two odd streams is not enough. Firstly, it is important that NGT expands the horizon of its focus on environmental challenges in J&K. Secondly, strong legal advocacy is required to ensure that the executive and its governance structures abide by the directives of the NGT in letter and spirit, considering that the Tribunal lacks in strong enforcement authority, especially in a state/UT like Jammu & Kashmir. If river bed mining is allowed to go the way it is right now in J&K, river morphology effects would manifest in channel erosion and what geologists say upstream and downstream incision which would be irreversible.
Moving ahead with solutions, it is important for J&K that large and small-scale mining activity may only be allowed after the scientific study of that area. That scientific study has to be independent and insulated from state influence. Mining activity should be allowed only in those rivers in which Replacement Rate of Material is high. The activity will have to be completely banned near the ecologically sensitive areas, while limited activity could be allowed at a safe distance (buffer areas) away from the road/building/bridges/critical infrastructure etc. Moreover, research and developmental activities will have to be strengthened to estimate the resource availability in the local body/region wise and its extraction to be considered in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.

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