The Jalpaiguri administration has refused to grant permission for the mining of minor minerals from the Teesta in the district as arms and ammunition that had been swept away in the Sikkim flash flood on October 4 could still be stuck downstream and could cause explosions during excavation.
Construction materials like stones, pebbles and sand are mined from the riverbed. Such mining remains suspended during monsoon. Recently, the district administration granted permission to leaseholders to resume mining at 16 different points of other rivers flowing through Jalpaiguri.
“However, we didn’t grant permission to extract minor minerals from the Teesta. This is because after the flash flood, a number of explosives like mortar shells, detonators belonging to the army that were swept away have been recovered from the Teesta bed downstream. The army has defused a number of such items but even then, there is a chance that more are still buried in the riverbed,” said a source in the district administration.
In case mining starts in the Teesta, there is a risk of explosion, the official added.
Soon after the flash flood, an explosion had taken place in Kranti block of Jalpaiguri. A mortar shell that had been recovered from the river had exploded when a person fiddled with it, causing the death of a boy and injuries to some others.
“The army is continuing its search for explosive items in the riverbed. But it is a tough task as during the flood, the river had also brought a lot of debris,” the source said.
Permission, however, has been granted to mine sand and stones from rivers like the Leesh, Ghish, Chel, Diana, Reti, Sukriti, Neora, Jaldhaka, Zurantee and Mal.
Sanjib Ghosh, the secretary of the Jalpaiguri Zilla United Truck Owners’ Welfare Association, said the decision to resume mining had helped hundreds of people associated with the sector.
“It is good that the administration has allowed mining in 16 rivers. But simultaneously, the administration should confirm that no illegal mining is carried out in the Teesta so that no death or injury takes place from explosions,” he said.
River experts said it was necessary to clear the debris from the Teesta bed ahead of the next monsoon.
“It has to be done in a scientific manner. Due to the flash flood, the Teesta’s bed has increased and it would be able to hold less amount of water. Otherwise, there will be a risk of flash flood next monsoon,” said Subir Sarkar, a river expert based in Jalpaiguri.