Looks like, we have become blind to the consequences of our actions. In our quest for development, more importantly in the quest of legitimate or illegitimate wealth, everyone – from a businessman to a real estate thug or a politician – is out to milk the natural environment of the country regardless of the consequences of their interventions on it that eventually impact the people at large.
Of late, numerous people including politicians have been claiming that Bhopal has become a real estate hub. Perhaps, the claim is justified. Even a layman can see the ads in the newspapers about the new constructions that are ceaselessly coming up all around the city. None knows whether these are coming up with or without a plan, the new City Development Plan being now overdue by as many as 12 years. Reports have indicated from time to time that these are coming up in accordance the 2005 City Development Plan but that seems to be farfetched as the lands earmarked in 2005 must have already been used up leaving little, if at all, for new constructions.
All that, however, is beside the point; what is important to know is that the break-neck pace of construction in and around Bhopal has exponentially raised the demand for sand in meeting which the rivers of the region are being denuded of it. A report recently appeared that as many as 32 big and small rivers of the region have lost most of their waters and some have even gone dry. Even a fairly big river like Betwa, a tributary of Yamuna, was recently reported to have gone dry at Vidisha. People have been wondering as to how this could happen this year after a bountiful monsoon. But, every action has its reaction. It seems the farmers have been illegally diverting water from the river for irrigation. Then, of course, the main reason of indiscriminate mining of sand – legal or illegal, more of the latter – has to be accounted for.
Even after hefty bribes paid at various points before delivery of the stuff mining of sand is immensely profitable. It produces quick bucks and the unscrupulous miners have enriched themselves. Bribes and political backing does the trick. From the reports one gets it seems to be free for all; only one has to be resourceful, has to have right connections, has to be unscrupulous enough and unconcerned about the environment and its future and, bingo, money rains down on to one’s lap. One recalls the sad incident of a young Indian Police Service office sacrificing his life to stop the sand mafia from carrying out their sinister operations. He was just run over by a heavy vehicle of the mafia.
The government’s indifference tells a tale of apathy and utter unconcern for the rivers of the region that may result in a bleak future for it. Denuding of the rivers is likely to entail water-stress in the region adversely affecting the millions of the region. That in-stream sand mining causes degradation of rivers is well known. Not only does the river bed is deprived of the protective layer of sand that holds water keeping the nearby aquifers charged, continued extraction may cause the stream to degrade the river up to the depth of excavation. This causes severe damage to physical and biological environment of the river systems. Drying up of rivers is one of the serious consequences which could lead the neighbouring areas to become water-stressed. The rampant destruction of riverine eco-systems all over country needs hardly any mention. Madhya Pradesh, however, walks away with the cake in this regard.
In fact, indiscriminate sand mining in rivers is virtually like digging one’s own grave. For the folly of the current generation future generations may have to pay heavily. In this connection, a mention needs to be made of the hypocrisy of MP government which is running a Narmada Seva Yatra – journey along the river to serve the Narmada River. Behind it what is being done is exactly opposite of “Seva”. Tons of sand is being extracted from the river, mostly illegally. It was reported that 1000 trucks ply on the road between Hoshangabad and Bhopal every night transporting sand with predetermined rates of bribe to be paid at various check points. Even the close relatives of the chief minister were found to have been involved.
No wonder, none raised the issue, not even in the Legislative Assembly except in feeble voices. The crooks, including politicians, are playing with the future of the region. If today the agri-GDP of the state is climbing at the rate of around 14% it is likely to plummet in the ensuing years if the state’s rivers are ceaselessly ravaged.
Unfortunately, the government is unmindful of the damage that is being wrought in state’s river systems. Curiously, the toothless bodies like the State Pollution Control Board or other public organizations charged with the responsibility o conserving the state’s physical environment have been mutely watching the loot that is going on. One hopes that it is not too late already to restore the rivers in question to their pristine condition.