Sand mining or sand drilling refers to the extraction of sand mainly from foreshore regions which include rivers, streams and lakes. Sand is usually mined from beaches, inland dunes, beds of oceans and rivers. The process of sand mining is related to the process of mining mineral sand for deposits like gold and silver. These minerals in their natural state typically occur combined with ordinary sand. After the digging the sand, the valuable minerals are extracted by passing it through water. The remaining regular sand is deposited in the land.
Sand theft or illegal mining is one of the major contributors to natural resource depletion. Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian peninsula. With the Eastern Ghats in the north, the Bay of Bengal in the east and the Indian Ocean in the south, Tamil Nadu is blessed with plenty of mineral deposits. It is also one of the largest state economies in India and its GDP is only second after Maharashtra. Tamil Nadu is also rich in natural resources.
Sand is an essential natural resource as it is used as a raw material in various industries. The Palar river basin, Thamirabarani river basin, and the Vaigai river basin in Tamil Nadu are victims of illegal mining. The Tamil Nadu Public Work Department states that 5000–6000 truckloads of 200 cubic feet sand are mined from riverbeds every day, but in reality, the quantity of sand mined ranges to 55,000 truckloads of 400 cubic feet per day. This issue is a rising concern as regular extraction activities put rivers under heavy pressure. The minerals attained by illicit means are exported to other states without proper license. In 2013, illegal sand theft was approximately estimated to cost 15,000 crores.
Intensive sand mining causes severe environmental impact. Marine species are accustomed to a unique habitat and excessive mining alters their environment, hence threatening their survival. Erosion caused by sand mining creates adverse effects on the wildlife. For instance, sea turtles lay their eggs under sand, but often illegal miners destroy their natural nests and this leads to the extinction of many species. Agriculture is one of the most important occupations in Tamil Nadu. Mining depletes the fertility of the topsoil. Thus, excessive mining not only drains an area of its nutrition, which could potentially be used for farming, but also takes away the livelihood of many persons.
Some measures have been implemented by the Government of Tamil Nadu to curb sand theft. At the state level, a task force for the prevention of illegal mining and monitoring the mining activities has been constituted with the Secretary to Government Industries Department as the chairman. The Director of Geology and Mining along with a representative of the Indian Bureau of Mines are the members of a task force at the district level. The government has created a task force at the Taluk level with the Taluk level officials and the respective Tahsildar as convener. Apart from theses, the government conducts meeting at state and district levels to create awareness about sand theft. It also propagates awareness of existing acts and rules regarding the interconnection of sand mining and industrial growth.
Mining provides ancillary services to the industries. The importance of extraction cannot be ignored as it produces the primary raw materials necessary for economic development. Without mining, economic growth will slow down, but this does not mean that we put excessive pressure on the land. Pressure on the land will be reduced drastically when the parallel illegal sand theft is eliminated. To curtail the rampant mining, the Government of Tamil Nadu has banned drilling in seventy one of ninety sand quarries. Unfortunately, the measures have not produced any significant positive output. Hence, it is necessary that the people and the Government of Tamil Nadu takes environmental exploitation seriously and implements hardcore policies for attaining effective results.
Picture Credits : thehindu.com