Illegal sand mining: HC seeks affidavits from Goa Chief Secy, DGP by May 2

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Taking note of illegal sand mining continuing unabated in Goa’s Pernem area, the High Court of Bombay at Goa on Monday asked government officials, including the Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police (DGP), to file affidavits in the matter.

In a contempt petition filed by the Goa Rivers and Sand Protectors Network (GRSPN), the court observed: “At least, prima facie, we think that this is a serious matter, because, instances are on the rise to defy not only court orders but to unauthorisedly extract sand, thereby causing environmental degradation. From the rise in such instances, we get an impression, which we sincerely hope is wrong, that the authorities are not seriously interested in controlling this activity of unauthorised sand extraction. There is virtually a game of hide-and-seek going on and the impression that we get is that the authorities are not doing enough to prevent it.”

The counsel for the petitioners, Norma Alvares, told the court that on April 10 and April 18, illegal sand mining was carried out at night and there were about 50-60 canoes engaged in the activity in Tiracol River in Uguem village of Pernem on the night of April 10. On April 18, Alvares said, the illegal activity was carried out using 22 canoes.

In an affidavit, Uguem resident Vinayak Mahale, member of the GRSPN, said that around 11.30 pm on April 10, there were 12-15 labourers on each of the 50-60 canoes engaged in illegal mining. He said sand mining in Uguem was a routine with extraction taking place between 11 pm and 6 am.

“…The rampant sand mining taking place for a long time has led to the sinking of the Tiracol bed from around 60 metre to 160 metre. I say that coconut, mango and other plantations and farms of local villagers have been severely affected due to the land sliding that has occurred as a consequence of the illegal sand mining in Uguem,” Mahale said in the affidavit.

In their order, Justice M S Sonak and Justice R N Laddha observed: “Besides, we wonder how 50 to 60 canoes can be involved in such an activity, and yet the police authorities and the mamlatdar claim virtual ignorance of what is happening at these sites.”

The court also stated: “There is record that on both these occasions, complaints were filed to the Pernem police station and to the mamlatdar, urging action. Alvares states that some police personnel did arrive at the site, only to watch the canoes laden with sand sail away.”

Directing the Chief Secretary, the DGP, the in-charge at the Pernem police station, and the mamlatdar to file affidavits by May 2, the court asked them to explain “ as to why despite all the mechanisms they claim they have put in place, such incidents continue unabated”.

The judges also observed: “The onus cannot be put entirely on activists or environmentalists to point out such incidents, many a times, at the cost of risk to themselves and only thereafter, some modicum of action is reported. It is the duty of the state to prevent such activity in terms of the law.”



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