ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Regulating Sand Mining

Can we fi nd the balance between meeting the needs of construction and protecting the environment?

The Uttar Pradesh (UP) government’s decision to suspend Durga Shakti Nagpal, the subdivisional magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar in Greater Noida, has spiralled into a larger narrative about the activities of the so-called “sand mafia” and its power over local politics. Some believe that the real reason for Nagpal’s suspension was not her decision to demolish a wall on a plot where a mosque was being built but because she had cracked down on illegal sand mining. Whatever the truth, it is clear that she is not the only official to have incurred the wrath of political bosses for trying to implement the law on sand mining. In fact, the business of sand mining is a classic example of the extent to which the culture of impunity has taken root in this country and the way it continues to be nurtured and reinforced by the very people who make the laws.

Sand is needed for construction. With the exponential growth of the construction sector in India’s urban areas and in infrastructure, the extraction of sand from rivers and lakes has also become big business. Not only is it extremely lucrative, but it also has low working costs and despite laws, remains largely unregulated. It is also a business that provides revenue to the state, the district, the panchayat and immense profits to the contractor. To ensure that nothing comes in the way of this well-oiled conveyor belt between the river or lake and the construction site, contractors have not hesitated to use strong-arm methods to discourage inquisitive media or activists.

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