The coastal police on Thursday seized five canoes and police filed a First Information Report (FIR) against 50 labourers allegedly involved in illegal sand mining at Cumbharjua, officials said.
Raids were conducted by the mines department officials along with the police in a bid to reign in the blatant illegal sand mining operations in the state.
The labourers, mainly from Uttar Pradesh, were booked under Section 40 of the CrPC by the Old Goa police. Section 40 gives the police the power to arrest in case of any violations under any other department and to prevent any further wrongdoing. The labourers are to be produced before the SDM on Friday.
The sand mining operations were allegedly taking place at the fag end of Cumbharjua – on the river. The sand was being excavated in between Cumbharjua and Akada.
The raids were conducted by Mr Sudhir Mandrekar and Mr Jayant Sirsat of the mines department as part of the process of tightening of enforcement on illegal sand extraction in the state.
As of today, there are no legal sand mining permissions in the state, with the state government recently constituting two committees to give new permissions and regulate manual sand mining. The North and South Goa Collectors will head the panels.
Sand is a major component in the real estate industry, one of the mainstays of the local economy, and sand extraction had been going on in the state for a long time, with authorities turning a blind eye to the operations going on. The government, in a bid to tide over the acute manpower crunch in the mines department – the nodal implementing agency – had empowered departments like the police and mamlatdar to implement the rules.
Sources alleged that sand extraction had been going on in the state as no major action was being taken against the illegal activity, with rotational nominal arrests made and fines of transporters only to show that action was being taken while boats and other sand mining equipment was never confiscated. Thursday’s seizure is the first time that any canoes have ever been confiscated.
The rate of one cubic metre of sand varies from Rs 300 to Rs 500 excluding the transportation cost. This makes it Rs 9,000 to Rs 15,000 per day. The labourers are usually brought in especially for the job and they charge around Rs 200 per cubic metre of sand. The profit in the business is around Rs 3,000 to Rs 9,000 per day, depending on the season.
For the first offence for transportation of sand, there is a fine of up to Rs 5,000 with ten times the royalty, and the guilty party can even face imprisonment.
The National Institute of Oceanography has reportedly said that sand extraction at the mouth of a river can let the saline water from the ocean rush into its basin and sidewalls of the river bank can collapse if extraction goes deeper in the basin. A scientist has said that sand extraction activity has a huge environmental impact. [NT]