Even as the state government has formed a special Crime Branch team to inquire into mining of mineral sand, the fishermen community is alleging that mining using new methods is rampant in Alappuzha and Kollam districts.
They said that mineral sand smuggling by procuring permission in the name of places of worships and using fish distribution vehicles is quite common in these areas. Charles George, president, Matsya Thozhilali Aikya Vedi, said though the government claims that it has stopped sand smuggling, the picture is not so rosy.
“There are incidents where people procure licences in the name of places of worships to remove sand from its premises. Smuggling happens using this permission as a bait. Nowadays, fish distribution boxes are also used to exploit the mineral wealth. The government has to frame a policy to end mineral sand mining completely,” he added.
The area to the south side of Thrikkunnapuzha in Alappuzha is completely vulnerable to smugglers now, he alleged. It is estimated that mineral-rich sand deposits in the coastal areas of the two districts are worth `5.5 lakh crore.
Mineral sand deposits found between Neendakara and Kayamkulam (the Chavara barrier beach and the eastern extension), over a length of 22 km within the width of 225 m, are among the best in the world because of the high titanium dioxide content in ilmenite.
It is now the most important ore of titanium.
Jackson Pollayil, general secretary, Kerala Independent Fish Worker’s Federation, said smuggling of mineral sand using fish distribution vehicles is the latest method.
“The practice is rampant in Perumpilly-Kayamkulam belt. Smugglers use money to silence the locals. Our federation is against sand mining and we request the government to curb this at any cost,” he added.
V D Majeendran, a fish farmer in the region, said mineral sand mining was happening in Ambalappuzha and Arattupuzha regions. Refuting the allegations, K P Thampy, ADM, Alappuzha, said the drive against mineral sand mining had become strict now.