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Sand mining in Vasai Creek, Mumbai, India

Vasai Creek: miners drowning due to illegal manual sand mining in Mumbai, for the building industry. Sand dredging operations continue despite official bans.


As reported in 2018 [1]  a Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation revealed workers were drowning while illegally mining sand in Vasai Creek, one of the two main distributaries of the Ulhas River. The investigation found about75,000 men, many from India’s poorest areas, were risking their lives and health by spending up to 12 hours a day diving 12 metres into pitch-black waters with iron buckets to fill with sand. In response, the Maharashtra state government promised to end illegal mining along the creek, impose regulations, and provide alternate jobs.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Sand mining in Vasai Creek, Mumbai, India
State or province:Maharashtra
Location of conflict:Mumbai
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Wetlands and coastal zone management
Specific commodities:Sand, gravel
Project Details and Actors
Project details

In the Vasai Creek near Mumbai, lack of alternative livelihood and employment opportunities pushes local and migrant labor to work in illegal sand mining operations which pose a great threat to their life. Many officially unreported deaths by drowning and burial under sand have been reported in the Vasai creek near Mumbai where illegal sand dredging operations continue despite official bans. The construction boom in India has generated demand for sand which is often illegally mined from river beds, beaches, and marine floorbeds. In the case of Mumbai, one of the largest operations have been detected in the Vasai creek which is one of the two main distributaries of the Ulhas river (Srivastava, 2018).

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Type of populationRural
Affected Population:75,000
Start of the conflict:2018
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Awaaz Foundation.
Sumaira Abdulali.
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Application of existing regulations
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The practice of manual sand mining has caused many mortal victims.
Sources & Materials

[1]. Srivastava, R. 2018 (August 13th). Indian miners drowning for sand despite government crackdown. Reuters.
[click to view]

The Asian Age, 2019 (April 28th). Sand mining racket busted in Palghar.
[click to view]

1. Srivastava, R. 2018 (August 13th). Indian miners drowning for sand despite government crackdown. Reuters.
[click to view]

Rawat, B. S. 2019 (February 18th). Maharashtra Sand Mining 2018: Panegaon shows Way To stop Illegal Sand Mining. South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP).
[click to view]

Dailyhunt. India To Offer Jobs To Manual Sand Miners After Deaths Exposé. Dailyhunt.
[click to view]

Srivastava, R. 2017 (August 4th). Drowning for sand: miners risk all for India’s building boom. The Irish Times.
[click to view]

Khan, S. 2018 (December 31st). Mumbai Crime: 14 Held For Illegal Sand Mining In Vasai Creek.
[click to view]

Shantha, S, 2018 (April 5th). For Thane's Sand Miners, a Life Mired in Dirty Water, Illness, Illegality. The Wire.
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Exposing the Sand Mafia's of India | Foreign Correspondent
[click to view]

Impact of sand mining | Sumaira Abdulali | TEDxXIE
[click to view]

Drowning for Sand: miners risking all for India’s building boom
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Arpita Bisht, International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands. [email protected]
Last update18/02/2020
Conflict ID:4911
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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