Khaira: The administration has allegedly failed to contain illegal stone mining in Sarisua hills under this block of Balasore district.
Locals and environmentalists have expressed concern over such illegal mining by the stone mafia despite prohibitory orders in the area.
They have blamed the administrative apathy for the unscrupulous looting of minerals. The brazenness of the stone mafia is at times shocking to say the least. They use heavy machinery and explosives to achieve their objective.
They also employ local people for illegal mining and use some of them to clamour for stone mining on the pretext that it will provide them with job opportunities.
Meanwhile, the Tourism Department has made provision of water conservation for wildlife and is trying to conserve a waterfall in the hills.
Some outfits, social activists, and environmentalists alleged that stone mafia has formed an unholy nexus with officials to carry on rampant loot on Sarisua hills. They threatened agitations if the illegal mining is not stopped immediately.
It has been said that blasts of explosives have killed a number of wild animals as well as people in the area in the last 20 years. Others alleged that the whole ecology of the locality has changed due to the blasts.
More and more animals are invading human habitats. Earlier, 96 mines lying in elephant corridors in the region had been leased out. As a result, it affected the lives of the wild pachyderms.
Taking serious note of the threat to ecology, two voluntary organisations had moved the NGT in October 2019 over mining in the hills and the resultant environment degradation. Following an NGT order, the administration has imposed Sec 144 on several mines.
Even though prohibitory orders under Section 144 of IPC have been put in place at Sarisua hills, it has not deterred the stone mafia from carrying out their illegal operations.
A Crime Branch STF team from Cuttack had raided the area last year and started an investigation on illegal mining of stones. The team had then arrested five mafia members and seized a truck and two tractors.
Sources said that Section 144 has been imposed in 100 mines in Khaira and Kaptipada localities.
However, as police have not been deployed in proper numbers, the mining mafia is continuing its operations at mines in Bandhanata mouza under Khaira tehsil and at Sukhuapata mouza under Kaptipada tehsil in Mayurbhanj district.
Locals alleged that large quantities of stone are being transported to various parts of West Bengal. They pointed out the huge stocks of stone have been kept on forestland and alleged that the district administration is not taking any action.
Sarpanch Gajendra Parida informed that if the Tourism Department completes its proposed waterfall project, it will be beneficial for both wild animals and local people.
He demanded action against the stone mafia. Balasore DFO Bimal Prasanna Acharya said that action will be taken against people involved in illegal mining and using forest land.
He said that he would direct the Soro ranger to take proper action. Tehsildar Mahendra Parasad Behera said that illegal stone mining will be investigated.