A complete ban on sand mining is not enough to control illegal dredging and trade of the material and there is a need to introduce cheaper alternatives to divert attention from this limited resource.
These were the remarks by Principal Secretary of Revenue and Forests Pravin Pardeshi after he attended the screening of Denis Delestrac's Sand Wars on Monday.
"We have to understand that our country is very different from any other country abroad. They have a population that is reducing while Mumbai sees 18 million people added every year that makes it impossible to control the growth of any sector abruptly. While mining sand from rivers is wrong, sand trapped behind dams can be extracted instead", said Pardeshi referring to the sand particles that collect at dams instead of flowing out into the sea.
Pardeshi points out that mining sand from river beds is dangerous as the capacity of the river to retain water is lost with the sand thus drying up ground water tables.
"Taxing the mining of natural sand and subsidizing dam extracted sand for construction can be used to turn people towards viable alternatives. Meanwhile segregating and recycling glass which is similar to sand is another good alternative", said Pardeshi citing examples of Denmark where the taxation of Natural resources has led to a 90% reduction in use of natural sand and the glass beach in California respectively.
Even though sand mining is regulated by Indian law, demand for natural sand as a raw material for construction has only been increasing with sprouting infrastructure over the city. An order by the National green tribunal recently banned the illegal mining of sand in the coastal areas of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa. These regulations bypass the influential builders and politicians who are allegedly behind this activity thereby empowering them further.
The situation is similar abroad where imposing regulations have not been able to control the respective sand mafias who do not hesitate to turn to violence not only towards activists but also law enforcers.