Excavation on riverbeds in Dir disappoints tourists

F.P. Report

TIMERGARA: Lack of coordination among different departments in Lower Dir has adversely affected the beauty of river banks due to unchecked excavation of gravel, sand and stones for buildings.

The Lower Dir administration though has imposed ban on illegal extraction of gravel and sand from riverbeds under section 144 CrPC in the district, yet the practice has become a routine and miners are seen loading trolleys and trucks daily on river banks.

The riverbeds along the GT road from Zulam Pull to Khall and Rabat in Timergara and Chakdara to Badwan in Adenzai presented an ugly look due to numerous deep ditches disrupting smooth water flow in the rivers and streams. Building materials like gravel, sand and stones are excavated illegally through heavy machinery and transported to various areas in Lower Dir.

Local tourists Muhammad Israr from Adenzai and Syed Amjad Ali Shah from Khall told here on Sunday that they had only rivers, forests and mountains for tourism promotion which was the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa top priority. They complained that unchecked excavation of gravel and sand had misshaped the rivers’ banks along the road.

“The government though wants to promote tourism in the area yet I cannot bring my children here for outing because of the excavated earth on the river banks,” Israr said, adding the local administration should take practical steps to stop illegal excavation.

“Sand mining and gravel excavation increases in the area in winter when water flow becomes low,” said Amjad Ali, adding that miners used shovels and excavators on a large scale. 

The Lower Dir deputy commissioner Saadat Hassan told on contact that the irrigation department, which is the owner of riverbeds, had informed his office in writing that it was not its property. The DC said that the passage of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minerals Sector Governance (Amendment) act, 2019 too created problems for the administration as minimum fine of Rs 500,000 was to be imposed on the violator. He said that how a person excavating one or two trolleys gravel or sand for building purpose could pay up that amount.

A responsible official of the irrigation department wishing not to be named clarified that there was no land settlement record in Dir that made it difficult to identify the actual riverbed. The official said that locals had their private properties along the riverbeds and water courses who often claimed ownership of streams and riverbanks. He said that the irrigation department owned water, riverbeds and water courses but rest of the government departments like fisheries, mine and minerals, forest and civil administration had also a big stake in it.

“Fishing is checked by fisheries, mines and minerals by its concerned department and trees and plants are seen by the forest department,” he said, adding that once the actual riverbed was identified the irrigation department would never let anyone to encroach it. The official said that controlling unauthorized excavation and transportation of minerals was the prime function of the minerals development department.

Similarly an official of the minerals development department said that local politicians and influential were forcing them not to take any action. He said that almost all political parties were on the same page against any drive from the minerals development department.

He said the department was forced by political parties to postpone its leasing process and tendering in the district. Local tourists demanded of the district administration to form a joint committee of the concerned departments to chalk out a strategy for checking illegal excavation on riverbeds in Dir.