KOCHI: With the price of river sand going north, the beaches and coastal zones across the state have become hotbeds of illegal sand mining.
Some unscrupulous agents supplying sand for the construction sector are minting money by mixing the saline soil mined from the coast with river sand.
Express visited coastal areas in Malippuram, Njarackkal and Elamkunnapuzha in Ernakulam district where mining of sand from seashore is rampant. “People come in goods carrier autorickshaws early morning and take away sand in plastic bags. We suspect that these sand bags are taken to Aluva where they mix it with river sand. The locals extract sand for only filling low lying areas. We don’t know whether police and panchayat authorities are aware of such activities. They rarely come here,” said a Njarakkal resident who preferred anonymity.
According to environmentalist C N Joy, who is also the former general secretary of River Protection Council, the illegal sand mining from seashores is rampant throughout the coastal areas of the state.
This sand which has the presence of salt will corrode the steel used for construction within a year. Though a concrete structure has a life span of more than 60 years, using this sand would invite disaster.
“Even if the sand mined from these areas are washed to remove the salt particles it cannot be used for construction activities. This illegal business started in Kerala when there was acute shortage of construction sand,” he said.
The price of river sand (per cuft) stands at Rs 75. The price was around Rs 60 a year ago. Even the M-sand, which cost Rs 28-30 two years ago now comes at Rs 40.
But local bodies, when questioned on illegal sand mining, are in a denial mode. Mulavukad grama panchayat president Divakaran said no sandmining has been reported from the area recently. Earlier, there where instances of sand being mined from waterbodies surrounding the panchayat. Police officials in Njarackal police station said that no such incident has been reported from Vypeen and Njarackal areas.
“We regularly see locals extracting sand in low quantity from beach for land filling. Since there is no sand yard in Njarackal and Vypeen, the mixing of saline sand with river sand is not taking place here. No case of sand mining have been registered at Njarrackal police station,” said a police official.
P Viswanath, general secretary of Government Contractor’s Joint Action Council, said that they have information that saline sand was used for the construction of a stadium in Kollam, which is getting ready to host the National Games.
“It is true that some contractors, for getting high profit use low quality sand including saline sand. Our association has barred members from such activities. But the government must take step to reduce price of sand,” Viswanath said.
(to be concluded)