Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh on Tuesday said during the third session of the 12th Manipur Legislative Assembly that the cabinet had prohibited quarrying of minerals from river beds with heavy machines.
Biren was responding to the calling attention motion moved by Congress MLA of Khangabok constituency, Surjakumar Okram who said that the Thoubal River is worsening each year due to the constant illegal quarrying of sand and stone.
The Manipur High Court had passed judgment and the concerned department also issued an order to control illegal mining activities in the state. Yet, mining is still continuing in many places of Thoubal River in a reckless manner, the Congress MLA said.
He explained that the earth excavated using heavy machines from nearby places is directly washed or processed upstream of Mapithel Dam or Thoubal Dam. Because of these reasons, the entire course of the Thoubal River is highly polluted, he added.
The Thoubal River has been polluted to such a level that it is unfit, not only for humans but even for animals, to consume its water. The deterioration of Thoubal River aggravates the problem of water scarcity in the region, the Congress MLA said and added that there is a need for a collective effort from all concerned including the home department, the department of commerce and industry, the department of forest and the department of water resources to stop illegal mining successfully.
He urged the state government to take up concrete steps or regulations that prevent deterioration of the river and don't affect the livelihood of poor people who engage in quarrying activities.
Responding to the MLA's question, the chief minister said that the manual mining will be streamlined considering the livelihood of the manual labourers. The manual workers can continue their work with prior permissions from commerce and industries and forest departments, he added.
“We, the human beings, are selfish and some of the people have no civic sense,” Biren said, adding that 99 per cent of the people are not aware of setting up toilets properly. They built toilets near the running river irrespective of whether they are contaminating the water which is consumed by others, he said.
He informed the House that recently the government did a mass drive of eviction of toilets and cleaning the river banks stretching from Kangpokpi to Imphal River. He also said that Singda Dam is drying up because of the cutting down of trees on the hills around Singda, leading to scarcity of drinking water.
CM Biren said that the problem of illegal mining in Thoubal River is a serious issue. Taking the matter seriously, the state government had nabbed many people involved in illegal mining from time to time but released them after sometime according to court procedure. Despite the state government putting all effort to end this, the state government is still unable to completely stop this illegal activity.
The state cabinet had recently resolved to issue an order which will strictly monitor the large-scale illegal mining from river bed by using heavy machines. It will effectively prevent anybody from carrying out such activity that hugely affects the river and the environment, the CM informed.
The order will, however, accept mining done by poor people in small scale manually, the CM said, adding that the state government identified most of the places where illegal mining is continuing. Environment impact assessment of such places will be carried out, he said.
While responding to the queries of MLA Surjakumar regarding drought declaration, minister of relief and disaster management, Awangbow Newmai, said that the government declared drought during kharif-2019 on August 31, 2019. The state government, through district administration and district agricultural officers, conducted the field survey based on various parameters such as decline in surface water, poor crop conditions, number of dry spells and ground truthing, he said.
Based on the field survey on various parameters, the state government sought Rs 151.04 crore as relief assistance from National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF). However, the Ministry sanctioned Rs. 26.53 crore in 2020 as assistance, he added.