BERHAMPUR: Rampant and illegal excavation of sand from the bed of Ram Nadi that courses through several villages in R Udayagiri block of Gajapati district has raised apprehensions of erosion.
The sand mafia carries out mining in broad daylight without any fear of administrative enforcement. Local administration turns a blind eye taking plea that such enforcement is under the ambit of those administering minor minerals.
With no penalty imposed on illegal lifting and transportation, the sand mafia has been emboldened while the state exchequer loses lakhs of rupees in royalty every day.
“Despite the Orissa High Court directive categorically restricting lifting of sand during daytime, the mafia pays no heed,” said social worker Premananda Pujari.
On the other hand, taking advantage of the inaction, the mafia continues to lift sand from various places of the river from Khasada to Anjaraba village under Mohana tehsil. Since sand carried in hundreds of tractors is moved out, the excessive mining might lead to erosion of the river banks and pose threat to Dimbirisahi, Deraba, Kamalapur, Kumulsingh, Burupada, Jarapada, Dabaraguda, Gayalmera, Balimuli, Kalapanga, Santarasahi and Karangasahi villlages.
The villagers allege that despite repeated appeals, little action has been initiated by the administration. Interestingly, some local youths even collect Rs 500 to Rs 800 per tractor to provide safe escort to the vehicles. Some contractors entrusted with government projects also lift sand without any permission, locals said. Ironically, the tractors engaged in sand lifting carry no registration number plate to avoid action.
The youths who provide safe passage to sand tractors in lieu of money argue that similar mining continues near Kumulasingh village under Jirnag panchayat where locals use similar tactic. “As no action is initiated against them, we opted for the course to make money,” said the youth.
While officials of Mohana or R Udaygiri tehsils could not be reached for a comment, district minor mineral mining officer D Parida said due to inadequate staff, the local offices are unable to reach the sand lifting sites. “However, strict action will be taken against the people concerned after receiving concrete information,” he added.