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December 27, 2023 @ 7:30 am - 11:30 pm


The recent crackdown on sand smugglers in Bihar, particularly near the Sone River, marks a significant milestone in the continuous effort to combat illegal sand mining. This illicit activity, driven by various factors, poses substantial threats to ecosystems and communities. To understand the gravity of the issue, it is crucial to delve into the intricacies of sand mining, its sources, contributing factors, consequences, and the initiatives taken to address this environmental menace.

Sand Mining:

  • Definition: Removal of primary natural sand for extracting valuable minerals, metals, and construction materials.
  • Threats: Poses serious dangers to ecosystems and communities.

Sources of Sand in India:

  • Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines (SSMMG) 2016:
  • Rivers (riverbed and floodplain), lakes, reservoirs, agricultural fields, coastal/marine sand, palaeo-channels, and Manufactured Sand (M-Sand).

Factors Contributing to Illegal Sand Mining:

  • Lack of Regulation and Enforcement: Inadequate regulatory frameworks and weak enforcement mechanisms contribute to the proliferation of illegal sand mining.
  • High Demand for Construction Materials: Construction industry’s substantial demand fuels illegal extraction, intensifying pressure on riverbeds and coastal areas.
  • Corruption and Mafia Influence: Organized sand mafias and collusion with authorities perpetuate illegal mining.
  • Lack of Sustainable Alternatives: Limited adoption of eco-friendly alternatives like M-sand leads to overreliance on riverbed sand.
  • Weak EIA Implementation: Ineffective Environmental Impact Assessments allow for unauthorized extraction, lacking public awareness and monitoring mechanisms.

Consequences of Sand Mining:

  • Erosion and Habitat Disruption: Unregulated sand mining alters riverbeds, leading to increased erosion and disruption of aquatic habitats.
  • Flooding and Increased Sedimentation: Depletion of sand contributes to increased flooding and sedimentation, negatively impacting aquatic ecosystems.
  • Groundwater Depletion: Deep pits formed due to sand mining cause a drop in the groundwater table, leading to water scarcity.
  • Biodiversity Loss: Habitat disruption from sand mining results in significant biodiversity loss, affecting aquatic and riparian species.

Initiatives to Prevent Sand Mining in India:

  • Mines and Mineral Development and Regulation Act, 1957 (MMDR Act): Sand classified as a “minor mineral,” with the aim to prevent illegal mining. Recent amendment in 2023 strengthens regulatory control.
  • 2006 Environment Impact Assessment (EIA): Approval required for all sand mining activities, emphasizing the severe impact on the ecosystem.
  • Sustainable Sand Management Guidelines (SSMG) 2016: Issued by MoEFCC, focusing on environmentally sustainable and socially responsible mining.
  • Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining 2020: Provides a uniform protocol for monitoring sand mining, incorporating new surveillance technologies.

Case Study: Sone River

Perennial river in central India, second-largest southern tributary of the Ganges.

Origin and Flow: Originating near Amarkantak Hill, flowing through Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.

Merges with Ganges: Merges near Patna, Bihar.

Tributaries and Dams: Ghaghar, Johilla, Chhoti Mahanadi, Banas, Gopad, Rihand, Kanhar, and North Koel River. Prominent dams: Bansagar Dam and Rihand Dam.


The arrest of sand smugglers in Bihar highlights the urgency in addressing the pervasive issue of illegal sand mining.

Efforts such as the recent crackdown and existing initiatives like the MMDR Act amendments and Sustainable Sand Management Guidelines are crucial steps towards curbing this environmental threat.

A comprehensive understanding of sand mining’s sources, contributing factors, consequences, and preventive measures is essential for sustainable development and the preservation of vital ecosystems like the Sone River.

Continued vigilance, stringent regulations, and public awareness are imperative to ensure the long-term health of India’s natural resources.


December 27, 2023
7:30 am - 11:30 pm
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