Sand miners make merry as authorities pass the buck

While two powerful state institutions keep passing the buck, illegal sand mining continues unabated in the Kelani River, right under the Kelani Bridge.

Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GS&MB) senior officials say that the area comes under the Coast Conservation Department, while the latter says it is not responsible for the said area.

Last week, The Island exposed illegal sand mining under the Kelani Bridge.

"We have only 250 officers to cover 13 regions including Hambantota and Ampara. The police should cooperate with us in such instances and help us to nab the culprits," he said.

He said that a two-kilometre area from the River Mouth came under the Coast Conservation Department.

Dr. Wijayananda said that to date they had never come under political pressure as Environment and Natural Resources Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka had given strict instructions not to succumb to political pressure.

He said he had to get information from Deputy Director Anil Peiris on the situation. When contacted, Peiris said that he could not comment without the Chairman’s approval.

However, last week GS&MB Acting Director S. M. A. T. B. Mudunkotuwa said that they had not issued permits to anyone for sand mining in Peliyagoda, where the Kelaniya Bridge is situated.

Coast Conservation Department Acting Director General Anil Premaratne told The Island yesterday that his institution issued permits only to the sand miners’ society in Wattala to operate within an area of two kilometres from the estuary. The rest of the area where the mining was being done did not come under the purview of the Coast Conservation Department, he said.

Security forces in the area too were not happy with the illegal sand mining. They said that they didn’t want to get involved because they suspect that a politician is behind these activities.

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