TT, Jalpaiguri, July 18: The state irrigation department is facing an acute shortage of boulders following the Green Tribunal’s restriction on riverbed mining, leading to halt in several constructions on the banks and flood protection work during the monsoons.
The irrigation department assigns such works to contractors who dig up river beds and collect and supply boulders, pebbles and sand for the projects.
“Following instructions of the Green Tribunal, mining of riverbeds has been stopped for the past three-four months. As a result, there is shortage of boulders. We need boulders for flood protection work and building and repairing embankments. The monsoon is here but due to lack of boulders, contractors cannot carry out the tasks. We are gravely concerned,” a senior official in the irrigation department said today.
He added that the department needed boulders to complete an embankment at Milanpally in Rajganj block of Jalpaiguri district on the right bank of the Teesta.
“Due to the rise in water levels, the condition of the unfinished embankment has deteriorated. It is important that construction of a 3km embankment is completed at the earliest. Our department has sanctioned Rs 3.50 crore for the project but the contractor is not being able to do the work as there is shortage of boulders. We also need boulders to carry out flood protection work at Takimari (in Rajganj) and some other places on both banks of the Teesta,” he said.
The irrigation department has approached the Teesta Barrage Project Authority – also a wing of the department – for boulders.
Manash Kumar Bhaduri, the chief engineer (northeast), state irrigation department, posted in Jalpaiguri, said they had asked the barrage authority for 3,000 cubic metres of boulders.
“They had stocked up boulders for some work. We approached them and they have agreed to give us around 3,000 cubic metre of boulders kept at Gajoldoba (the Teesta Barrage site in Rajganj block). We will provide the boulders to the contractors who are doing our projects,” Bhaduri said.
He added that the expenses would be borne by the contractors concerned. “We will deduct the expenses incurred for getting the boulders to the site from the contractors’ payments and pay it to the barrage authorities,” said the official.
But the River Bed Quarry Permit Holders’ Association, which carries out mining on riverbeds and transports boulders, pebbles and sand to construction sites, has refused to engage its vehicles for the work.
“We have been sitting idle for months as the Green Tribunal has imposed a ban on mining. Over one lakh people in north Bengal have become jobless due to such a directive. Our members are demanding withdrawal of the ban,” Mintu Das, the association president, said. “Unless our problem is solved, no truck will carry boulder from any site or carry out any government task.”
Officials of the irrigation department said they need at least 15 trucks to carry the 3,000 cubic metre of boulders from Gajoldoba to the sites.
“This has posed a new problem for us. We are mulling over probable alternatives,” an official said.
A source in the irrigation department said contractors who work for the PWD, irrigation, PHE and other departments were complaining about the shortage of raw material. “As the monsoon has set in, most work has slowed down or will start after the rains. If there is no change in situation, it might become very difficult,” the source said. “Right from construction of roads, drains, buildings and other infrastructure, it is local sand, pebbles and boulders that are used. If these are unavailable, contractors can’t work.”