BERHAMPUR: Revenue officials on Friday visited the villages situated on the banks of Bahuda river here to take stock of the illegal sand transportation which has assumed alarming proportions in the area.
Rampant excavation of sand from the bed of Bahuda, which passes through several villages of Chikiti block, has caused extensive erosion besides posing danger for locals.
Despite restrictions, the illegal excavation continues on the banks due to growing demand for sand in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Puddles have formed along the river bed near Maisanpur, Nuagada, Patharachudi, Badabaragaon, Bhimpur and Khariaguda villages in Chikiti due to excessive lifting of sand. The illegal practice thrives due to the nexus between some local officials and sand mafia, sources said.
Hundreds of tractors can be seen lifting sand from the river bed in the evening almost everyday. Later, the tractors dump the sand on open fields only to be reloaded on heavy trucks during the wee hours. The sand-laden trucks then head for Andhra Pradesh taking the village roads to avoid the check gate at Girisola border.
Earlier, Motor Vehicle (MV) and Sales Tax check gates were operating at the border. However, after implementation of GST, Odisha Government removed both the gates last year. Though Andhra Pradesh Government removed its Sales Tax check gate, the MV one continues to operate.
To avoid being caught at the check gate, the trucks take the routes via Mantridi-Bhairabi and Pitatali-Chikiti to reach Sumandi Chowk. Though the administration is aware about the transportation, no steps are being taken to check the illegal practice as the trucks are piloted by henchmen of sand mafia, sources added.
As per reports, of the areas where illegal sand mining is rampant, only the river bed near Bholasingi village was leased out by the district administration in 2015 at a cost of `25 lakh for five years. Since the lease amount was high, the lessee further sub-leased the bed which led to lifting of sand round the clock.
As a result, the depth of the river increased, posing threat to locals and transportation problems. Subsequently, sand excavation was stopped for the last some months.
The recent cyclone Titli and subsequent floods left a sand deposit of around 10 feet high on the river bed. When the lessee wanted to lift the sand, locals opposed the move. The matter is now pending before the Ganjam Collector.