Frequent raids are not slowing the rate of the illegal sand extraction
Illegal extraction of sand has not declined in Sirajganj despite constant raids by the administration.
The sand mining operation—occurring on the western bank of the Jamuna river, near Bangabandhu Bridge in Saidabad union of Sirajganj Sadar Upazila, and on the embankment near the Randhunibari village in Belkuchi upazila—has also been witnessed as recently as Wednesday.
One month ago, three mobile courts fined five to six truck drivers and workers Tk3 lakh for this.
The drivers of sand-bearing trucks, and the workers—who were assigned to extract sand—are being detained by mobile courts in these raids.
The drivers and workers are fined and then released after signing a bond. However, the true masterminds behind the operation of this illegal sand-mining are still beyond the reach of the law.
The culprits have become even more reckless to make up for the fines by increasing the number of trucks, workers, and dredgers working on extracting sand.
A 380m embankment—costing almost Tk4 crore—has been built by the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) on the Jamuna River bank, near Randhunibari, because of river erosion.
Rampant illegal mining of sand near the embankment is threatening the very existence of Randhunibari; an area famous for its weaving industry.
According to guidelines —of the Sand Fields and Soil Management Act of 2010 (Balu Mohal O Mati Babosthapona Ain, 2010), by Bangladesh’s Ministry of Land and the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA)—sand extraction from 6km above the guide embankment, on the east and west bank of the Bangabandhu Bridge, to 12km beneath it, is prohibited.
The guidelines of BWDB stated that sand extraction from the base of the flood protection embankment to 6km diagonal to the river, is prohibited. However, extraction ensues, putting the west guide embankment at risk.
Visiting the area in person, the correspondent has found that the number of raids conducted by mobile courts against illegal sand mining has decreased recently.
Bangladesh Bridge Authority Assistant Engineer Ahsan Kabir Pavel said: "Without government approval, sand extraction from within a 12km boundary of the Jamuna is illegal."
BWDB Executive Engineer Md Ariful Islam told the Dhaka Tribune: "It is illegal to extract sand without government approval according to the Sand Fields and Soil Management Act of 2010.
"However, because of insufficient manpower, we cannot conduct raids properly; and all we can do is inform the administration of this."
Sadar Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Sarkar Mohammad Rayhan said: "No government official land lease has been granted near Sartia and Randhunibari. On information about the sand mining operation, I, along with executive magistrate, directed the mobile courts."
Additional Deputy Commissioner (Revenue) Iftekhar Uddin Shamim said: "Raids were conducted in Saidabad and Randhunibari, at least three times, a few days ago."