Crime Bureau, Tolivelugu: Environment is nothing but the nature around us in the form of land, water, air, trees, and living species. It is essential for human survival and development. Neglecting any of them can have serious consequences. Whether you are neglecting the soil while growing trees, or looking for a concrete jungle and neglecting the other, the consequences will be serious and inevitable. Despite the never-ending moral preachings from the TRS leaders, it is quite sad to witness the way the environment is getting damaged by the actions of the government. Incidents like repealing 111 GO and the growing sand mafia are believed to be some of the serious threats to the ecological balance in the state of Telangana that needs immediate attention. Environmentalists are concerned that the future could be grim as nobody is questioning the authorities about the situation in Telangana.
The sand mafia near Medigadda is one such example. The sand mafia that erupted at this 3,000 acres space is taking a new shape with each passing day. Though the separate state of Telangana was accomplished almost 8 years ago after an intense struggle for freedom, it looks like the story of corruption and illicit activities inside the institutions is the same or even worse now. In order to educate and enlighten the people of the state, Tolivelugu’s crime bureau did extensive research on this subject and has come up with some interesting insights.
The NGT’s committee
Rela, a non-profit organization, turned to NGT in 2015 for sand mining in the Godavari. With this, a technical committee was appointed in 2018. However, the committee visited the AP and Telangana districts within two days. The report was submitted with photos of the boating. TSMDC has arranged a good stay for the committee members at the Tourism Hotel in Begumpet and has offered them royal courtesies on all ends. Experts assume that this might be the reason behind the arrears in the report- making it in favor of the government.
NGT Judge Adarsh Kumar reprimanded the committee and dismissed the report expressing outrage against the irregularities in the report, questioning the members whether they had gone on a picnic or to investigate the sand irregularities in the state. Later in 2019, Mahima, a Central Pollution Board scientist, was appointed chairman of the committee with four other experts. They toured in May. It was in this context that sensational issues came to light with the report given by that committee.
What’s in the Mahima Report?
Although the project work did not start in Kantanapalli in 2015, sand was extracted at that place under the name ‘Barrage’. In 2016, tenders were called for the extraction of 5 crores 70 lakh cubic meters of sand at the said barrage in Annaram and Madigadda. A committee has been appointed for this. They did a joint inspection and had a total thickness of 8 meters. It was concluded that it could carry up to three meters. But according to the NGT report, there is a thickness of 1.5 to 3 meters. In some places, it is only four meters in. If there are three meters, they are eligible to take only one meter of sand. This opened the door to large-scale irregularities. In total 4 meters were dug out of a total of 3 thousand acres.
There are some unconditional terms regarding underground water- like they must stop extracting sand once they notice water coming out of it. But no matter how much water came in, they kept on looting the sand leaving a plethora of potholes behind.
The decision of the Central Government!
The Central Government has introduced comprehensive sand control rules across the country. These Rules must be strictly enforced as per the directions of the Supreme Court. As the Chairman of the work, the Collector must submit a report from time to time on the amount of sand and the number of meters of thickness in any district. But the Mahima report found that these regulations were not at all respected in Jayashankar Bhupalpally.
Tenders in the name of double bedrooms
The committee has prepared a report for sand extraction at Medigadda in the Godavari river. The government earlier stated that in addition to the double bedroom houses, and Mission Bhagirathi these lands will only be used for other projects. Unlike these statements, the government started selling the sand online and amassing a massive Rs 3,000 crore revenue. On the one hand, the mafia, which destroyed the vast lands in the name of covering up the dunes told the court that it was only used for the construction of projects and government schemes.
Geo-tags are nowhere to be seen!
Geo-tag the sand tenders and dig only where they need to be done. For that, the cement poles should be kept permanent. But only when someone is coming to inspect the place, the red flags will show up. There are allegations of extracting sand on 5,000 acres when only 3,000 acres are allowed as per rules. In the space where 2 meters were counted, more than 4 meters were dug, with these numbers, one can understand how much exploitation has taken place. It is learned that Rs 6,000 crore of illegal sand has been dumped so far. The Mahima Committee concluded that some of the records were quoted.
Weighing machines that are never used!
Although 16 automatic weighing machines were set up, the lorries were known to look the other way. 10 to 15 tons of sand with an extra bucket is going illegally in a single lorry. It is said that the weighing machines are literally left unused throughout the way.
Roads worth thousands of crores of rupees were destroyed
National highways and rural roads are being destroyed. All the crop fields are covered with sand. No matter how many complaints are filed, there is no one who cares. Roads worth thousands of crores are suffering from potholes due to the heavily-loaded lorries. This anarchy is seen in the Bhupalpally district. It is estimated that more than 300 people lost their lives so far in the road accidents caused by the sand lorries. Those families are holding protests on the roads for justice, but no police is caring about it. On the other hand, the politicians are busy taking bribes.
What about Kameshwar Committee?
The NGT committee has to come and survey and report to the complainant without the knowledge of the government. But in 2020, the Telugu-speaking Kameshwar Rao Committee returned with government royalties and special facilities offered by the state government. They stayed at a five-star hotel in Hyderabad. Examined the Madigadda and Annaram barrages in a helicopter. They did not even attempt talking about the barrage that was full of water. A comprehensive report boasting about how the government has undertaken the construction has been submitted to the NGT. The report could not say at least one percent about how much sand was extracted and how it was done. Rela approached the Supreme Court to appeal the report.
The government has set up a company called TSMDC and started exploiting the sand through it. Here, there is also a don who runs the whole Sand Mafia. Let us see in Part-6 how the government is labeling this as a means of revenue, but committing the crime in the daylight.