Despite mounting losses to both human and elephant lives over the last 10 years in the Coimbatore Forest Division due to human-animal conflict, illegal sand mining continues unabated in the backwater catchments inside the Sirumugai forest range, unnoticed by the officials.
According to sources, from 2006 to 2016, 96 human beings and around 74 elephants have died in the Coimbatore Forest Division. Illegal red soil mining in the forest boundaries and the Bhavani river in the Coimbatore Forest Division is the major reason cited by the forest department for increased human-animal conflict. Even after several restrictions and issues raised on the illegal sand mining in Bhavani river, officials have not clamped down on the mining mafia.
M Muthaiya, a tribal residing in the Saththan Pallam, Sirumugai, said, “Saththan pallam is one of the important elephant corridors in the Sirumugai forest region, where hundreds of elephants cross the river and reach their water source.”
As vehicles transporting mined soil continuously move around these parts, the animals are disturbed and find it difficult to cross the river and reach the Nilgiris foot hills. So, they take the alternative way into human habitations.”
“Though the local forest officials and local body officials are aware of it, they have not initiated any action towards the issue. We have also conveyed this to the district forest officials, but they are not ready to take action,” he added.
According to the mines and minerals department’s own norms, sand mining is not allowed nearby the forest boundaries.
In order to take sand from the water bodies, they have to get a no objection certificate from the forest department and agricultural department.
Both the Coimbatore and Erode Mines and Geology Department have pointed the finger at each other, stating that the other had to bear ultimate responsibility for failing to take action against the sand mafia.
Speaking to Express, the Coimbatore Mines and Geology Department Assistant Director B Sivakumar said, “Though it comes under the Coimbatore district, the Bhavani river flows into the Erode district. So, the Erode district mines department officials have to take action on this issue.”