Unchecked excavation of sand, gravel damaging riverbanks in Dir

Published January 13, 2020
Sand being collected from a riverbank in Khall, Lower Dir. — Dawn
Sand being collected from a riverbank in Khall, Lower Dir. — Dawn

TIMERGARA: Lack of coordination among different departments to stop illegal excavation of gravel, sand and stones for construction purposes has been marring the beauty of riverbanks in Lower Dir.

The district administration has imposed ban on illegal extraction of gravel and sand from riverbeds under section 144, but the miners can still be seen loading trolleys and trucks daily on the riverbanks.

The riverbeds along the GT road from Zulam Pull to Khall and Rabat in Timergara and Chakdara to Badwan in Adenzai presented an ugly look due to numerous deep ditches disrupting smooth water flow in the rivers and streams.

Building materials like gravel and sand are excavated illegally through heavy machinery and transported to various areas in Lower Dir.

Local visitors Mohammad Israr from Adenzai and Amjad Ali Shah from Khall told this correspondent here on Sunday that they had only rivers, forests and mountains for tourism promotion. They complained that unchecked excavation of gravel and sand had disturbed the beauty of the riverbanks along the road.

“I cannot bring my children here for outing because of the excavated earth on the riverbanks,” Israr said, adding the local administration should take practical steps to stop excavation.

“Sand mining and gravel excavation increase in winter when water flow turns low,” said Amjad Ali.

When contacted, deputy commissioner Saadat Hassan said that the irrigation department, which was the owner of riverbeds, had informed his office in writing that it was not its property.

He said that the passage of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minerals Sector Governance (Amendment) Act, 2019, too created problems for the administration as minimum fine of Rs500,000 was being set for the violator. He said that how a person excavating one or two trolleys gravel could pay such a big fine.

An official of the irrigation department wishing not to be named clarified that there was no land settlement record in Dir that made it difficult to identify the actual riverbed.

He said that locals had their private properties along the riverbeds and watercourses who often claimed ownership of streams and riverbanks. He said that the irrigation department owned water, riverbeds and watercourses, but rest of the government departments like fisheries, mine and minerals, forest and civil administration also had some responsibilities.

“Fishing is checked by fisheries, mines and minerals by its concerned department and plants are seen by the forest department,” he said. He added that once the actual riverbed was identified the irrigation department would never let anyone to encroach on it.

The official said that controlling excavation and transportation of minerals was the function of minerals department. Similarly, an official of the minerals department said that local politicians were forcing them not to take any action.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2020

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