Sand mafia digging deep into salt lands at Chinaganjam

Salt lands being excavated for sand at Chinaganjam

Salt lands being excavated for sand at Chinaganjam 


People, who complain against sand mafia are getting life threats

Ongole: Illegal mining mafia has extended its tentacles to salt lands and started to occupy one after another. For the last few days, people were seen digging sand and clay along saltpans in and around Chinaganjam in Prakasam district without permission.

The officials concerned, who should register suo motu cases, are waiting for the people to come and complain, daring against the life threats by mafia leaders and Prevention of Atrocities against SC/STs Act. The sea tide rises and falls leaving behind deposits of fine silts and mud in coastal area. Plants and trees that grow in the area help in maintaining ecological balance by supporting thousands of migratory birds, while the plains are used for salt cultivation, which is in practice on earth for ages.

According to the Department of Salt under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, there are a total of 19,026 acres of salt land in Andhra Pradesh, including 17,244 salt-producing land and 1,782 acres of non-salt producing land. Areas like Pundi, Noupada, Kalingapatnam, Bhavanapadu, Mulapadu in Srikakulam district, Konada of Vizianagaram district, Pudimadaka, Anakapalli, Vadachipurupalli in Visakhapatnam district, Guradhanapalli, Kakinada in East Godavari district, Machilipatnam in Krishna district, Chinaganjam in Prakasam district and Krishnapatnam in Nellore district contain most of salt lands and produce 4.35 lakh tonnes of salt on average per year. If these salt lands are disturbed and dug, eco-balance will be disturbed and seawater will enter neighbouring fields and habitations and spoil them.

In Prakasam district, about 3,000 families of salt farmers are working in salt production for about eight months. After severe damage by Cyclone Laila in 2010, usage of salt lands in Chinaganjam area considerably decreased and the extent of non-salt producing lands increased, and trees grew in them. These lands under the direct supervision of Deputy Superintendent at Chinaganam, and under the control of Assistant Commissioner at Kakinada, are now at risk for damage. The alleged sand mafia members are using the demand for sand for houses construction in Jagananna Colonies and individual plots and digging sand from these saltpans to supply to them.

For the last few days, some people are digging saltpans in Chinaganjam area with excavators and transporting sand with tractors. When locals tried to stop the tractors, they faced life threat or putting false cases under SC-ST POA Act, claiming that the local authorities are in their pocket.

Requesting anonymity, a man in Chinaganjam told 'The Hans India' that when one of his neighbours informed about the illegal sand mining in survey 608/4E to Salt department official, he was warned by the police personnel that a non-bailable case will be registered on him for obstructing their duties. He questioned how the police got information about their complaint to the sand department officials, if they do not collude.

Another villager counted that 23 tractors and three excavators are working round the clock in Chinaganjam salt lands since Wednesday, but no one dared to stop them.

Responding to the questions by 'The Hans India', Deputy Superintendent of Salt Lands Jalagiri Jayamma said that she observed a tractor carrying sand from salt lands on Thursday and questioned the driver. She said that she warned the driver not to do so again when the driver confessed that he is taking the sand for landfilling. Jayamma said that she was busy with office work and didn't focus on mining on Thursday and will give a complaint to the police to stop illegal sand mining in salt lands.

Chinaganjam SI P Nagababu said that they do not know about the illegal mining earlier. He said that they responded to a call from public on Thursday and stopped mining immediately and warned them not to dig unless they have permission from the authorities.

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