PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to stop issuing leases for the extraction of sand and gravel from riverbeds to prevent ecological damages.

The chief secretary has written a letter to the mines and mineral secretary saying the river sand and gravel is widely being exploited as aggregate for construction is often mined directly from the river channel, floodplain and adjacent river terrace deposits.

The letter noted that the mines and minerals department, in most cases, had issued leases and licences for such mining.

“Also, there are reportedly illegal extractions along riverbanks in the province, especially in tourist areas of Malakand and Hazara divisions,” it said.

The chief secretary’s office pointed out that the mining in question created serious impacts for ecology, environment, river stability, flood risk, roads and bridge structures and that the ensuing environmental degradation affected the basic needs of local population, including food and communications.

Chief secy office also asks mines dept to review current leases

It said those negative impacts came under discussion on the sidelines of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent meeting on construction sector and the remedial action was ordered.

The chief secretary’s office said Chief Minister Mahmood Khan had ordered a halt to riverbed mining in a recent cabinet meeting.

It said the impact on environment was much more than the revenue generated for government from such activity.

The chief secretary’s office said chief secretary Dr Kazim Niaz had asked the department not to issue new leases for mining of riverbeds and archeological sites.

It added that for the purpose, the minerals department could obtain GPS coordinates of rivers, streams and archeological sites and, while granting new leases, ensure that those areas were not within limits of lease area.

The chief secretary’s office said representatives of the environment, archeology, irrigation and other relevant departments could be made part of the lease granting committee.

It said action should be taken against illegal mining across the province first on riverbeds and archeological sites and then on other sites and later, a robust system should be in place to ensure continuous monitoring of and action against illegal mining.

The chief secretary’s office said all existing leases should be reviewed immediately for actions against violations.

It called for the introduction of a robust repeated monitoring system to ensure timely action against repeat offenders too and all leases which include riverbeds, archeological sites may be considered for annulment by following all legal procedures in consultation with relevant stakeholders.

Following reports of excavation at Tahrelli archeological site in Sawal Dher area of Mardan, the provincial directorate of archeology and museums had approached the mines department last week to declare archaeological sites lease-free under the KP Antiquities Act, 2016.It had also shared with the department a list of 84 immovable antiquities, monuments and assets declared protected under the KP Antiquities Act, 2016, along with the sites’ GPS coordinates.

The administration of Mardan district recently banned mining in Tahrelli archeological site in Sawal Dher area of Mardan over illegal excavation.

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2020