It makes absolutely no sense as to why illegal stone extraction in Sylhet, Bandarban and other hilly regions in the country would continue despite directives from the High Court and calls from environmentalists and the local people to stop this dangerous practice. This daily published a picture on June 4 of a tila in Sylhet’s Companiganj upazila which has now become a mining site where many workers are involved in stone-mining—risking their lives.
Over the years, many tilas and hillocks of Sylhet and Bandarban districts have been razed because of stone-mining by unscrupulous local influential people. And this happens under the very nose of the local administration, the officials of which, in many cases, abet the politically powerful people. Such practices have led to an acute water crisis in the remote areas of Bandarban. And in Sylhet, many villages are under threat of land subsidence. Already, a vast area in the Bichhanakandi village of Gowainghat upazila; Bholaganj, Shah Arefin Tila, Kalairag, Lilaibazar and Utmachaara areas of Companiganj upazila; and Lobhachhara river belt of Kanaighat upazila of Sylhet have been destroyed because of indiscriminate stone extraction. Stone traders have turned the popular tourist destinations such as Bichhanakandi and Jaflong into mining sites. Apart from the environmental consequences, stone-quarrying has caused deaths of many workers. Reportedly, more than 50 workers were killed at illegal stone pits in Sylhet between 2017 and February 2019.
Illegal stone extraction needs to end in order to save the environment as well as the lives of people. And to do so, the government must play an active role. The nexus between the powerful locals and the officials of the local administration must be broken. It must also ensure that the authorities entrusted with the responsibility to stop such illegal practices can play their role without any interference from any quarters.