Illegal sand extraction from the Lakshmanatirtha riverbed, near Nagarahole National Park, and its transportation outside the State continues unabated despite a government notification banning such activities.
Documents available with The Hindu indicate that sand extraction is rampant. The State is not only losing revenue, but its river ecosystem is also getting destroyed owing to indiscriminate extraction.
The government, in its notification dated July 2, 2011, passed the Karnataka Minor Mineral Concession Amendment Rules and banned transportation of sand to other States.
But between October 2013 and May 10, 2014, 399 truckloads of sand were transported through the national park on the Mysore–Mananthavadi road. Activists who sourced the documents told The Hindu that what was on record was only the tip of the iceberg.
“It is incomprehensible as to how the lorries could bypass the check-posts at Udbur, Balle and Bavali, which are on the Mysore–Mananthavadi road, before crossing over to Kerala,” they said, suspecting the connivance of authorities at different levels.
Registers maintained at Bavali check-post indicate that river sand was being carried in the lorries. According to the registers, the records of transporters were “defective”.
“This indicated that the transporters did not have licence or permit to transport sand,” said an activist who wondered why there was not a single case of sand-laden lorries being seized on the Karnataka side of the border.
In addition, lorries also use the Gundlupet–Sultan Bathery, Kutta–Tholpetty and Gonikoppa–Virajpet–Makutta roads to transport sand. That this is part of an organised plan is evident from the fact that three lorries, whose numbers have been recorded, have transported sand as many as 100 times between them through these routes.
Apart from the legal aspects, there are also environmental issues that cannot be ignored. The Lakshmanatirtha, which originates in Bramagiri, flows for 22 km through the Nagarahole National Park. But near the exit point of the forests where the river forms the boundary, rampant sand extraction takes places. The majority of it is at Anechowkur and the Veeranahosahalli border.
Any form of mining is banned within a radius of 10 km from the forest border under the Wildlife Protection Act and the Environment Protection Act of 1986.
Sources said workers are hired from T. Narsipur who are adept at extracting sand from the riverbed. The sand is loaded into lorries and transported to Kerala. As many as 50 to 60 tractor and tipper loads of sand are extracted from Billena Hosahalli, Konna Hosahalli, Negathur and surrounding areas.