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Bagaha:  After declaration of 15 km area around Valmikinagar Tiger Reserve (VTR) as “eco-sensitive zone”  under Environment conservation Act, 1986, mining activities should have completely stopped in the zone. But, illegal sand  mining in various hilly rivers including Gandak besides raiyati land is still being carried out in the zone with impunity by sand mafias.

Brajesh Jaiswal, Secretary, Flood and erosion protection action committee, Chhitauni ,on Bihar-UP border, who keeps a close watch on sand mining activities, claimed that the authorities concerned were hardly bothered about it as the sand mafia allegedly enjoys patronage of some politicians. Half a dozen illegal stone quarries were being run near Tharhi helipad, Bharihani, Piparakutti adjacent to VTR. With sand being lifted during summer season from the right bank of the Gandak at various points under Semara labdeha panchayat in Piparasi circle, the rivr  has gradually been changing its course towards Shripatinagar village. Sand mining, he said, was going on for several months in areas adjoining Madanpur, Gonauli, Harnatard, Chiutaha, Gobardhana and Gaunaha forest ranges under Valmiki tiger reserve in West Champaran district.

Rajkumar Sahni of Bharti kisan union, Piparasi in West Champaran, and Hazarat Ali of Shastrinagar, Bagaha, said  repeated complaints made to the forests and mining officials in this regard have evoked no respose so far. They alleged some policemen, revenue and mining staff collect money from tractor drivers carrying the illegally excavated sand. When media highlighted the alleged nexus between sand mafia and the police, the authorities swung into action and seized some sand laden tractors and trucks.

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