Unabated sand mining has been taking place in different regions of Kashmir, where heavy machinery is being used to extract sand from rivers and canals. With disastrous consequences for the environment, much of this activity has been taking place in the Rimbiara and Veshav rivers, which also function as tributaries to the Jhelum.
With the scrapping of the region’s semi-autonomous status in August 2019, changed rules have given an opportunity to outside players to flood the mining sector in the region, spelling doom for locals and the environment.
Many irrigation canals and water channels crisscrossing the apple-rich belts of Shopian are running dry due to illegal and unchecked mining of rivers. Locals living near river beds fear that their villages could get washed away in case of a flood in the future and if mining continues.
According to the Jammu and Kashmir Minor Mineral Concession, Storage, Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules, 2016, mining is forbidden in riverbeds “below the depth of 3 meters or water level, whichever is lesser”. However, mining by heavy machines has left deep and wide craters in many river beds in Kashmir. Experts warn that this could destroy the environment to such an extent that it will become impossible to fix the situation.