Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

The notorious sand mafia's illegal mining operations in Konark is posing a serious threat to the world-famous heritage site. Despite several attempts to curb the illegal practice, the mafias continue to over excavate sand right under the administration's nose, throwing a challenge to the law enforcers.

As per reports, the sand smugglers are carrying out their sly operations during midnight hours. Hundreds of sand-laden trucks are seen swarming near different sites, from the sea beach to the helipad site. The smugglers have not even spared the Balukhand forest range.

While locals have alleged the involvement of government officials with the mafias in the illegal mining operations, exclusive visuals of rampant illegal sand mining and transportation have been captured on OTV's camera.

The illegally excavated sand is being transported in over thousands of trucks overnight. Earthmover machines are being engaged at the excavation sites which load sand uninterruptedly from the heritage site. The mafia is carrying out the operation without fear or worries right in the periphery of the Konark police station and the office of the Additional Tehsildar.

The locals have alleged the involvement of the government officials in the illegal mining operations as the mafia is lifting sand even in daylight, apart from under the cover of night. Moreover, the locals have brought serious allegations that the illegally excavated sand is being used for constructing roads, which is impossible without the knowledge of the concerned authorities.

"The presence of the natural sand provides us assurance during natural calamities like a cyclone as it acts as blockers. But the mafia is destroying the heritage site as well as inviting trouble for everyone," said Rashmi Ranjan Biswal, a local resident.

The operational area of the mafia spans from Balibanta in the north of the Sun Temple to the Balukhand Forest Reserve area including the helipad area. Several footages has been captured that show deep trenches and uprooted trees which are the results of over-excavation. 

Over the harsh impacts of the illegal operations on ecology, several environmentalists have demanded immediate actions to stop.

"The mafias are excavating more than the required quantity of sand for road construction and trading those elsewhere. The government should consider all these factors and put an end to the mining operations in Balibanta as it is causing a huge damage to the environment," said Dilip Srichandan, an environmentalist. 

He further warned of mass protest over the matter which has assumed serious proportions.

Meanwhile, the Forest Ranger at Konark admitted that illegal sand mining operations are being carried out from the area. The environment and the wildlife are facing the brunt of such activities. 

"Wild animals will come in search of water and invade the populous areas where there is a likelihood of getting attacked by dogs or facing accidents," said Benudhar Behera, Forest Ranger, Konark.

On the other hand, Puri Additional Collector has ordered the Tehsildar at Gop to investigate the matter as no ghats have been auctioned for sand mining at the sites from where sand is mined illegally. 

"We have received a complaint about the matter. We will take immediate action after receiving the investigation report from the Tehsildar," said Pradeep Sahu, Additional Collector, Puri.