Forest dept on tenterhooks as illegal sand mining thrives at BNP

Forest dept on tenterhooks as illegal sand mining thrives at BNP

A large quantity of sand is being illegally mined from the fringes of Bannerghatta National Park (BNP) and the forest department officials are having a tough time stopping the illicit activity. 

Since last month, the BNP officials have been busy seizing lorries on Bannerghatta Road and holding them at the BNP head office. The department is forced to deploy its staff for this job.

Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), BNP, Sunil Panwar, told Deccan Herald  that they have started seizing lorries since last month and have collected Rs 5 lakh as penalty. 

“Last weekend we seized 17 lorries. Each lorry is fined Rs 25,000. The penalty collected has been deposited in the State treasury. We also hold the lorries in our office for two days in order to put indirect pressure on the companies and transporters,” Panwar said. 

Lorries are seized because they pass through forest patches illegally at night. They pass through Shivanahalli-Ragihalli Road, BNP-Kagallipura Road or through Mahantalingapura. Sand is mined by using borewells in revenue lands which are located on the fringes of the forest. 

According to the Wildlife Protection Act,1972, and High Court orders, no quarrying, sand mining or excavation is permitted in a one-kilometre radius of forest patch. But this rule is not being followed, he said. 

Forest department officials have powers only to penalise and seize lorries for a shortwhile. Thus, there is little effect and lorries continue to ply on City roads. There are many instances where traffic and forest department officials have been threatened by the sand lorry mafia.

The City needs 2,000-3,000 lorry loads of sand per day, but only half the demand is being met. Only 30 per cent of the lorries moving on City roads have permits.

Since the rest are illegal and demand is high, lorry drivers are forced to pay bribes of Rs 10,000-14,000. Bengaluru gets 10 per cent river sand from Mangaluru, Kollegal and Haliyal and the remaining supply is met by filter sand transported from the outskirts of the City, like Kanakapura and Tumakuru. Rates vary from Rs 40,000 to Rs one lakh per load depending upon the  excavation area, said B Chennareddy, President of Sand Lorry Owners Association. 

Mostly low quality filter sand is supplied to Bengaluru which is extracted from river beds or vacant sites, filtered and sold. Though M-Sand, mud bricks and blocks are available in the market, they are not preferred because of the high cost and lack of knowledge, he added. 

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