Mumbai: A Mumbai environmentalist has made a fervent plea to Union Minister of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, to secure Maharashtra's beaches, creeks and hills from rampant mining for sand and crushed stone for the booming construction industry.

"I once again appeal to you to secure our beautiful beaches and creeks for posterity by continuing the ban on mining in these critical areas," said Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation, in a letter to Ramesh.

Ramesh was in Mumbai to discuss the city's infrastructural projects, including environmental clearances. Currently, there is a ban on sand mining in coastal regulation zone areas but people in rural areas want protection in the rest of the state, too.

Work could stop

"The powerful builder lobby is supported by the Government of Maharashtra in their claim that all construction activity would stop without easy availability of unlimited quantities of natural sand," she says.

However, she points out that in developed countries of the world, "creeks and beaches are not routinely violated for the construction industry and instead, on-site and off-site-recycling of sand from glass, debris, metal slag and other waste products are mandatory.

She cites a Tamil Nadu-based company which has hit upon the idea of manufacturing artificial sand from blue metal for which it has put up a plant near Karur.

The company, iBlue Minerals, manufactures sand that is said to be of better quality than river sand. A viable alternative is the need of the hour, she stresses.

Other environmental devastation includes procuring crushed stone for Mumbai's ever growing concrete jungle from the hills, part of the Western Ghats, at Navi Mumbai, which were green until recently.

What is unfortunate, she says, is that the "same politicians who earlier mined sand are now tearing down mountains for crushed stone which like sand is another ‘free' material.

They have the support of the government as they did in the sand mining business."