Kashmir: Illegal River Mining it’s Catastrophic

Illegal River Mining: It’s Catastrophic

EIA clearance given, but PPs violate standard and specific environmental requirements.

The Department of Geology and Mining has moved from the practice of open-auctioning to e-auctioning and so far more than 173 mineral blocks across various districts of J&K, have been notified for e-auctioning.

With an aim of controlling illegal mining, the Govt of Jammu & Kashmir, around 6 years back came up with a new set of rules called J&K Minor Mineral Concession, Storage and Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules 2016.

The Industries and Commerce Department through its order No: 65 IND of 2019 Dated: 19.03.2019 decided to allot the mineral blocks through e-auction. District level e-auction committees were constituted headed by respective District Magistrates.

The senior officers / engineers from PWD, Irrigation and Flood Control , Geology and Mining and Finance are the members of these committees.

The Department of Geology and Mining has moved from the practice of open-auctioning to e-auctioning and so far more than 173 mineral blocks across various districts of J&K, have been notified for e-auctioning.

The e-auction notifications have so far been issued in respect of Districts of Poonch , Rajouri, Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Udhampur, Reasi, Srinagar, Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal , Kupwara and Pulwama. In fact the e-auctioning of mineral blocks was challenged before the J&K High Court in 2020 but the court upheld the e-auction mode for auctions of minor minerals.

The J&K High Court ruled that e-auctions are the most transparent and it enables maximisation of the public interest and national priorities. A division bench of the then Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sanjay Dhar in October 2020 while dismissing several appeals by mining contractors against government’s decision to switch over to e-auctioning of minor minerals said:

''The decision to change the policy and to auction mineral licences by e-auction was a reasonable policy decision and the e-auctions are most transparent,''

Is mere e-auctioning the mining contracts sufficient to streamline the River Bed Mining (RBM) in J&K? Is this going to protect and preserve the environment, ecology and biodiversity of our rivers, streams and nallahs?

The allotment of River Bed Mining (RBM) is not an easy task as the contractors also known as Project Proponents - PPs have to go through a rigorous environmental clearance. Most of the proposals are rejected by J&K Environment Impact Assessment Authority- JKEIAA which works under the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change Govt of India .

Those who manage to get the clearance have to fulfil several standard and specific conditions. Through this piece I have tried to analyse the mining contracts given during the last 1 year in Budgam district which is on the threshold of environmental disaster.

Our paddy land has been destroyed by brick kilns , almond orchards in Karewas destroyed due to clay mining and now our rivers and streams are the next target which will perish in the next two to three years if we don’t wake up.

The mining contracts given across J&K are all illegal and I have tried my best to substantiate and justify my claim with evidence and validation by examining and scrutinising the mining contracts allotted in Doodh Ganga and Shali Ganga rivers.

Environmental Impact Assessment

Without environmental impact assessment the River Bed Mining (RBM) cannot be undertaken by any project proponent. Many contractors and companies who had applied for the environmental clearance (EC) for undertaking river bed mining in different rivers, nallahs and streams in J&K could not get requisite clearance as they didn’t fulfil the required criteria.

The official documents accessed by this author reveal that M/S NKC Projects Pvt Ltd which has been allotted the construction of Srinagar Ring Road project applied for environmental clearance before J&K Environmental Impact Assessment Authority -JKEIAA.

On January 20th the JKEIAA rejected the proposal of the company to undertake RBM in Shali Ganga nallah at Banderpora Khansahib tehsil of Budgam.

The same company was granted EC for another similar work to be taken up around Dreygam bridge downstream under EC identification No: EC22B001JK161595. The environmental clearance (EC) was granted subject to fulfilment / compliance of around 45 standard and 75 specific conditions respectively.

Unfortunately many of these standard conditions are not at all fulfilled. This is not the case with only this particular company, but almost all the contractors (Project Proponents-PPs) don’t comply with these requirements.

As for the 75 specific conditions are considered, Project Proponents-PPs are not fulfilling the majority of these requirements as well. It is impossible to analyse all the 75 conditions but i have tried to throw some light on around more than half a dozen such requirements.

RBM to be Sold at 50 % Discount

The specific condition number 5 says that river bed material (boulders, gravel, muck, sand) shall be sold to local population within the radial distance of 2 kms from the mine site for residential construction purposes at 50 % concessional rates.

The project proponents (PPs) who have been allotted mining contracts in J&K are selling the river bed material (RBM) to stone crushing units at very high rates, some of which are located as far as 20 to 30 kms.

The NKC Projects Pvt Ltd has its own stone crushing unit and all the material is transported to that site at Gudsathoo Budgam and the material is used for a road project and not sold to local residents. This is an open violation of the condition number 5 of environmental clearance.

The sand, gravel or a boulder truck load was sold at an average rate of Rs 4000 to 5000 few years back and as per the EC norm same should have been available @ Rs 2000 to 4000 in the areas (50 % discount) where river bed mining is done such as Doodh Ganga or Shali Ganga areas of Chadoora.

But this material is available on highly exorbitant rates ranging between @ Rs 8000 to 12,000 per truck (tipper). The material has to be sold locally, but this is transported to Pulwama, Srinagar and other areas from Doodh Ganga and Shali Ganga mining sites of Chadoora and Panzan areas of Budgam district.

JCBs, Excavators not Allowed

The specific condition number 53 stresses on manual mining. The said guideline reads

''Mining shall be done manually minimally supported by semi-mechanised methods. Heavy machinery like JCBs, Excavators, L&T hydraulic excavators etc., should not be allowed. Emphasis should be given to locally available labour force to address socio economic condition of local,''

When we see on the ground not only JCBs are used but huge L&T & Poclain hydraulic cranes are being pressed into service. I reported this several times and went live on Facebook as well, with huge machines working in Doodh Ganga and Shali Ganga, but authorities at helm like officers of Geology and Mining and District Administration Budgam are not at all bothered to even enforce these guidelines of J&K Environmental Impact Assessment Authority -JKEIAA.

I brought the matter into the notice of the District Minerals Officer Budgam and Sub Divisional Magistrate Chadoora several times but they seem to be helpless. These guidelines have actually been proposed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) Govt of India. The Supreme Court of India & National Green Tribunal (NGT) as well have given several orders in this regard.

The guideline number 71 says that mineral blocks cannot be sublet to third parties without written approval from JKEIAA, but in case of Doodh Ganga and Shali Ganga the work has already been sublet to 3rd parties. Is JKEIAA aware of this development?

No Mining after Sunset

The guideline number 38 stresses upon the project proponents not to carry out any mining activity after 6 pm and before 9 am, but this guideline is also violated.

The Geology and Mining has even failed to install CCTV cameras around mining sites to monitor the activity. This is a deliberate attempt as the officials of this department are hand in glove with the mining mafia.

Huge hydraulic cranes work in river beds until midnight and operation is again resumed at 6 am. I have brought this to the notice of authorities , but they are not at all bothered to stop this illegal practice.

Guideline number 30 calls upon the Geology and Mining Department to use technology like Bar Coding , Information and Communication Technology and web-based services , SMS applications to account for weight of minerals being taken out of the mining block and number of trucks moving out with the mineral.

These guidelines are also violated openly. No rate list for minerals is maintained at sites.

The guideline number 41 says that no extraction of stones and boulders shall be done in landslide prone areas, but in case of Doodh Ganga and Shali Ganga the project proponents are mining in the landslide prone areas which have already been devastated during 2014 floods.

The guideline number 19 says that aesthetic view of the area be taken care of but when we see the condition of rivers where mining is being done, they look like a bombarded area.

Pre-feasibility Report

According to the pre-feasibility report submitted by one of the project proponents NKC Projects Pvt Ltd on 8.2.2022 before JK EIAA has given in writing that mining will be confined to extraction of material from the dry river bed & the operation will be open cast semi mechanised & partially manual mining method in which the material will be collected in its existing form.

Mining will be carried out only during the day time. Extraction of the minor mineral will be completely stopped during the monsoon season. The company has further given an undertaking that the mining will be restricted down to 1 m below river bed. These written undertakings are also violated.

Rule 4 of Mining Rules 2016 Violated

The Rule 4 under Sub heading Other restrictions reads as under:

''No minor mineral concession shall be granted in respect of any land within 25 meter from any embankment or flood embankment as defined under JK Water resources (Regulation and Management ) Act 2010.''

How will Geology and Mining justify e-auctioning the mineral blocks in Doodh Ganga, Shali Ganga, Tailbal Nallah near Harwan Srinagar, Pohru nallah in Kupwara and many other streams which are not more than 50 meters wide? These allotments are all illegal that should be cancelled forthwith. In case of Shali Ganga, Doodh Ganga and other rivers / streams heavy duty JCBs , L& T hydraulic cranes are being used which go as deep as 5 to 10 meters into these rivers / streams.


As per my research all the project proponents who have been allotted mining contracts in river beds across J&K fail to fulfil most of the EIA requirements and J&K Environmental Impact Assessment Authority- JKEIAA seems to be mute spectator to it.

The authority members hardly visit the mining sites and only relies on reports from Govt Departments like Geology & Mining ,Irrigation & Flood Control, PHE , Fisheries , Forest , Social Forestry , Pollution Control Board etc.

This has to be viewed very seriously and I would be brining it into the notice of National Green Tribunal -NGT who have already ordered Rs 3 crore penalty against erring Govt officers for allowing solid and liquid waste dumping in Doodh Ganga and illegal mining.

The Govt departments in most of the cases give their NoC to project proponents - PPs which can be easily challenged before any judicial or quasi -judicial forum or tribunal. Unfortunately we have very few people or NGOs in J&K who fight these cases legally.

I would appeal public spirited citizens and NGOs to come forward and work towards climate justice which is an essential component of UN’s sustainable development goals.

Illegal river bed mining is catastrophic which will not only impact our water ecosystem but is a great threat to our agriculture as well.