Narrow bridges

Deep connection: Locals blame collapsing NH railway line and bridges on illegal mining in Nurpur – Reuters

Rajiv Mahajan

Nourpur, August 22

Residents have consistently reported the threat of mining on the bridges over Chakki Stream, a tributary of the Beas, in Nurpur, but the administration has ignored their warnings.

Had the government heeded the persistent demand of the villagers to control illegal mining on the banks of the Chakki stream, the collapse of the interstate railway and national road bridges linking the state to Punjab could have been avoided.

The single-track national road bridge over the Chakki had collapsed in July 2007 (the new one was built in 2011) while the railway bridge on the narrow-gauge Pathankot-Jogindernagar line was washed away on Saturday.

Countless representations to the Chief Minister, Department of Mines, Sub-Division Magistrate (Nurpur), complaints on the CM helpline and a massive protest outside the Dharamsala Vidhan Sabha in December 2019 went unnoticed. With the collapse of two bridges at Kandwal in Nurpur in the span of 15 years, the demand for Declaring Chakki Rivulet a non-mining area has now become louder with locals insisting on a ban on mining in the area. Under the HP Mining Rules 2015, mining activity is not permitted 200 meters upstream and 300 meters downstream near the NH bridge, but telltale signs of mining activity can be seen on the riverbed . Incidentally, the railways had also written to Punjab and HP to verify illegal mining endangering the railway bridge.

Despite the lofty demands of successive governments to curb mining, the threat continues unabated, allegedly indicating a deep connection between the mining mafia, political leaders and bureaucracy.

Hoshiyar Singh, chairman of the Kangra unit of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, claimed that 15 villages under the Jikli Khanni, Uprli-Khanni, Hadal and Baduee panchayats in Nurpur have been badly affected due to illegal mining. “Illegal mining is carried out at night, but the authorities concerned turn a blind eye,” he alleged. Illegal mining has also rendered agricultural land barren and dried up underground water sources, he added.

Nipun Jindal, deputy commissioner of Kangra, meanwhile said the authorities would establish effective coordination between the Department of Mines and the police to control the threat.

Checkpoint efforts failed, says DC

Past efforts to set up a mining checkpoint in the Chakki area failed due to unavailability of land. We will now focus more aggressively on checking for illegal mining on the banks of the creek. — Kangra DC