Excessive sand mining causes acute water scarcity in Marathwada
Farmers of Wadwali village in Maharashtra are keeping a lookout for sand mining contractors who often come there to excavate the Godavari's sand and sell it to the construction industry in Pune and Nashik. In December, a group of farmers began a fast to protest indiscriminate sand mining and eight of them had to be admitted to hospital. This forced the Aurangabad district administration to set up a committee to look into farmers' complaint that excessive and unscientific sand mining in their area had led to acute water scarcity, which in turn was ruining crops. Although the committee gave a green signal for sand mining, fear of angry farmers is keeping contractors at bay.
The district administration first noted farmers' complaints on November 4 when 50-year-old Laxman Aute of Wadwali in Paithan tehsil tried to immolate himself in front of the collector's office.A policemen foiled the suicide attempt before he could strike a match. On November 1, Aute and 16 other farmers from in and around Wadwali had submitted a memorandum to the collector demanding sand mining be stopped in their area and had threatened immolation. Ignoring their protest, the administration auctioned seven sand belts along the Godavari, Anjana, Purna, Shivna and Gandhari rivers in Aurangabad. By doing so the district grew richer by Rs 11,563,000--but at the cost of its farmers.
The administration does not bother to monitor the way mining is carried out and the troubles it leads to, say farmers. "Most contractors don't abide by the quantity of sand allotted to them. Rivulets have disappeared and one can see rocks in place of sandy riverbeds that help retain water. Groundwater is depleted and rivers shrunk. We have suffered crop loss since there is no water for irrigation," said Aute.
The district administration is quick to shrug off the responsibility. Said A B Kamble, district sand mining work officer "Gram sabha resolution is mandatory for the auction of sand belts. If villagers do not want sand mining, they should not pass a resolution." But Wadwali sand belt was auctioned without the gram sabha resolution. "This year gram sabha was not held. The sarpanch and other office bearers took signatures of only 108 of the 2,500 residents," alleged Raut.
"Rivulets have disappeared and groundwater is depleted. Crops are suffering for lack of irrigation"
-- LAXMAN AUTE,
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