After years of trying to rein in illegal sand mining, authorities in Bihar’s Bhojpur district have come up with a new method – building pillars in the Sone river on either side of the Arrah-Sahar bridge in order to stop boats from carrying illegally mined sand from Bhojpur to Patna and vice versa.
Bhojpur and Patna have reported the highest number of illegal sand mining cases in Bihar, and it is estimated to cost Rs Rs 7,000 crore in annual losses to the state exchequer. Boats are a major means of transporting illegally mined sand, and the pillars in Sone river stop even small boats from crossing under the bridge from either side, officials said. The pillars were built over the past three-four months.
Stopping the transportation of sand via road, however, remains a challenge, officials said.
The issue of sand mining in Bihar recently came into focus when a tractor transporting sand mowed down a police sub-inspector during a raid in Jamui district on Tuesday morning.
Bhojpur in particular has been under the scanner of the police and the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which has banned sand mining in Bihar for a certain period of time every year since 2017.
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In May this year, Bihar Chief Secretary Amir Subhani and DGP R S Bhatti had inspected sites along the Sone river to select a spot for a police picket. The aim was to prevent the plying of sand-laden trucks from Bhojpur and Patna to Saran via the Bhojpur-Chhapra bridge.
Authorities then identified that “most cases of sand mining were done through boats”, Bhojpur District Magistrate Raj Kumar said, adding that they then came up with the idea of putting up the pillars. “Miners have been found using excavating machines to load sand into boats. A boat can carry three-four truckloads of sand,” he said.
The pillars were made using iron pipes filled with concrete, he said. “We have put these pillars in a zig-zag manner so that even a small boat can’t cross to another side. Our challenge and task is now to stop sand mining via vehicles from the Sahar area,” he said.