February 4, 2009 1:09:45 am
Just 50 km from Allahabad,an entire area declared drought-prone is being robbed of its ecology
Illegal mining for boulders,stone ballasts and silica is going on at a furious pace in the hillocks situated in Nibi,Lohgara,Sundervan,Gondi villages on land forest reserved for forests in Allahabad,jeopardizing the environment and ecology of the region.
The area covering around thousand hectares of forest land is situated between Bara and Shankargarh block in trans-Yamuna,nearly 50 km away from the city,and is a part of the Vindhyas range of mountains.
As one headed towards Nibi village in the forest land on unfinished dusty-bumpy road,all that could be heard were thunderous sounds of blasting. Clouds of thick smokes could be seen billowing from the surrounding hills and mountains. The situation is similar usually in the morning and in the night when forest officials are not in the office.
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The illegal miners have posted armed men around the site to carry out the work unhindered. Forest authorities,the locals allege,are hand-in-glove with the contractors.
Many of the Forest Department officials admitted illegal mining has been going on in the area but refused to come on record.
Nearly three-fourths of the Gondi hill has already been destroyed by the continuous blasts that are usually detonated after drilling holes with tractor-mounted compressors.
Once the boulders and other minerals are dug out,the contactors manage to procure transit permit of other mining areas and show the authorities the produce of that mining area. These contractors then sell the produce to the big traders on higher rates.
Due to these incessant blasts and mining,the ecology has been severely dented in the area that has been declared under Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP) by the Central government to promote water conservation,ground water recharging,soil conservation and surface water conservation besides providing livelihood to local people.
Blasting and mining seriously damage the ecology of the area. The rocks are disintegrated and the system is destabilised. The nexus between the land,life and vegetation is broken and it poses a serous threat to lives of people,livestock and vegetation, said H N Mishra,an environmentalist and professor of geography at Allahabad University.
The district administration had carried out a raid in the area a fortnight ago and seized three trucks loaded with boulders. Later,the forest department officials too conducted a raid and seized four trucks.
Its true that illegal mining was being carried out on the forest land in the area a few days ago and we have written to the district magistrate to provide us police force to stop the illegal mining, said district forest officer SN Mishra,while denying involvement of forest officials.
District Magistrate Rajiv Agrawal was not available for his comment despite repeated attempts.
Its a vicious nexus involving forest officials,local strongmen and the police. A truck of boulders costs around Rs 40,000 and hundreds of trucks are engaged in transporting boulders and other mining produce.
The workers,mainly locals,who are engaged in blasting and mining get only Rs 250 a day. We get Rs 250 a day. We dont know how much a truck-load of boulders costs, said Basdev Kol,a local engaged in blasting.
The situation of drought in the area can be gauged from the fact that in summer,the entire area goes dry with literally no drinking water in wells,ponds and tube wells.
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