I have been hearing protests of some kind or the other about stone mining and sand mining from river beds. The first time I ever experienced such protest was in Katerniyaghat Gharial Sanctuary of Uttaranchal in 1979-80. In 1990s and the first decade of 2000s I heard it from Chambal, and now I hear it from the
Mahanadi. Individuals or organizations who have
objected to such mining apparently have objected to the unplanned method or noisy
interventions in the tranquility of river ecosystems.
Without knowing, who will value these, at this stage I wish to put down some of my observations and thought in this connection. I am doing it mainly because I got the opportunity in the past (1975-1991, in particular) to see and study the aquatic fauna particularly in the rivers
Mahanadi and Chambal. The stretch of Mahanadi I studied was (apart from that is
upstream of Hirakud into Chhatisgarh) from Hirakud to the coast through
Satkoshia Gorge sanctuary of 22 km long and through tributaries like the Luna. My main focus was the Satkoshia Gorge. The stretch of Chambal was
within National Chambal Sanctuary (470 km long) from Ranapratap Sagar to
Pachhnada (close to the confluence of Chambal-Yamuna and Ganges)..
In my opinion,
(1) There is a lot of siltation and the river beds have got filled up.
(2) The situation has worsened because of water being taken out of the main river without any or much addition from tributaries.
(3) As a result of (1) and (2) flushing of river bed is not as complete as may have been in the past. I do not have hard data for this. But it is a logical conclusion which the Irrigation department could perhaps substantiate.
(4) For longer life of river as a living-ecosystem, we need water throughout its course, at least in the form of deep pools connected with water flow.
(5) I do not intend to infringe into the economics or other public view of sand mining. As an ecologist and conservationist, I wish my rivers survive as live ecosystems for indicator species like gharial, mugger, turtles and dolphin in Chambal, and any numbers out of these species in my
a lay man I would say silent dredging and planned sand mining would restore the
river bed to a better vibrancy.