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Updated December 16th, 2023 at 19:45 IST

Sand Mafia runs rampant in coastal Karnataka

Around 70,000 tonnes of sand dunes were found in the area far away from the CRZ.

Prajwal Prasad
Sand Mafia runs rampant in coastal Karnataka
Sand Mafia runs rampant in coastal Karnataka | Image:PTI
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Karnataka: The demand for a seperate sand policy for coastal Karnataka has been one of the long pending promises by governments in Karnataka. The Congress mentioned this in their manifesto too but the same policy is yet to see the light of the day. One tonne of sand is being exported for a mere Rs 2,000.

For the people of the coastal districts of Karnataka, who have been promised whenever elections come, that a sand policy will be formed have only remained promises, for people here buying sand is like buying gold. There is also a ban on the purchase of a handful of sand, let alone a separate sand policy for the coast. In the name of the same ban, sand is stolen and transported to Goa, Kerala, Dharwad and Bengaluru. Of this, crores of rupees have been spent. Business is going on.

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It's been nearly two years since the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has banned sand mining in Uttara Kannada, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts within the CRZ limits. When asked about the problem of sand accumulation in rivers, the supreme court in a judgement has said, "Sand in CRZ limits can be removed in the traditional way. But it cannot be sold," the Supreme Court said.

It was of no use because in three districts sand dunes have been identified. No one has been given permission to remove sand but the mining and sale goes on unabatedly through bribery and smuggling.  Veerappa Kakayya a local speaking to Republic said that "Sand is being supplied to other states and districts. The local rate has also doubled. River sand is also being used for the construction of houses and government buildings for the poor. To that extent, an unauthorized system has been created. Due to this, we are not getting enough sand."

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The rate of sand has also doubled. The poor are struggling to build houses. In Uttara Kannada district, the government rate is Rs 1,026 per tonne. In black market it is between Rs 3,000 to Rs 6,000. Republic tried to reach out to Mines and geology minister SS Mallikarjun and his office repeatedly but there was no response from them in the same.

Dark days in Coastal Karnataka

In Uttara Kannada district, 12.44 lakh tonnes of sand dunes have been identified this year. Everything is within the CRZ limits. Around 70,000 tonnes of sand dunes were found in the area far away from the CRZ. However, due to the forest, the sand was not allowed to be removed. Thus, sand is not legally available in any part of the region. The sand which is not supposed to be mined legally is being illegally mined during night. From here, sand is transported to Goa and Dharwad via highways.

Kottesh Rao another activist speaking to Republic said that "sand is also available in areas outside the CRZ limits in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi regions. However, there is an exception that the quality is low. Though there is scope for use, river sand is in high demand for plastering. The racket is so dark that it goes even to far away places such as Bangalore. M sand goes to Kerala. Whereas for the locals each lorry of sand costs Rs 15,000 - Rs 20,000."

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The demand for sand in Karnataka every year is 50-70 lakh tonnes. Coastal Karnataka supplies 15-20 lakh tonnes a year which is 35% of the state's supply. Sand royalty collection in Karnataka has increased from year to year and the statistics accesses by Republic shows the following

Year.         Sand royalty collected (in Crores) 
 

2013-14.  Rs 25.06 Cr
2014-15.  Rs 30.33 Cr
2015-16   Rs 40.21 Cr
2016-17.   Rs 25.18 Cr
2017-18.   Rs 21.06 Cr
2019-20.  Rs 26.80 Cr
2020-21.  Rs 25.70 Cr
2021-22.  Rs 87.78 Cr
2022-23.  Rs 84.45 Cr

Prakash Shetty an activist fighting for the rights of the local residents and fishermen community speaking to Republic said that "a separate sand policy for the coastal region has been debated for over a decade. Every Government promised 
a separate sand policy but it continues to promise. People here say that there has been an attempt to fool them with promises, but the sand problem has not been solved. There are promises made by many MLAs, MPs and ministers from the coastal areas about a separate sand policy."

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Published December 15th, 2023 at 00:10 IST

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