MUMBAI : The Arnala Coastal police in an early morning raid at Chikal Dongri area off the Vaitarna river in Virar, seized around 35 boats which was carrying illegal mined(dredged) sand worth Rs 40 lakhs and have also booked  13 miners, mostly hailing from West Bengal and North India.  

Said Vijaykant Sagar,Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) Vasai we had received a tipoff about the loading and unloading of sand from boats on the shore as illegally dredged sand was in full swing. We raided the spot and arrested 13 miners, alongwith 35 boats and sand. The Revenue department as estimated the illegally sand at around Rs 40 lakhs,said Sagar.  We are in the process of registering a FIR by Tuesday night and will impose theft and other sections of Environment Act and other allied relevant sections said Sagar.

The Palghar Police district have launched a crackdown on all sand mafias in the twin cities of Vasai and Virar,said Sagar. We raided the spot at around 0500 hours and seized the sand,he said.

The State government has banned sand mining within 600 metres of a rail bridge built over the river Vaitarna as the bridge is the only link between Mumbai, New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and other areas of the Western Railway. Due to rampant illegal sand dredging,the Vaitarna bridge posed a danger for railway traffic,said Sagar. In fact, in 2014, due to the illegal mining, the bridge got weakened  and it had to be repaired,said Sagar, and hence the District Collector had imposed the ban. So the illegal miners have resorted to dredge nearby areas he said.

The powerful builder lobby, active in Mumbai, Thane and Virar-Vasai use the banned suction method, which used powerful motor pumps to extract sand from the Vaitarna river bed and  thus the rail bridge got slightly damaged, said government sources. 

The villages of Khanivade, Kashid, Khardi-Kopar, Chandip, Hedvade, Chimne, are prone to illegal sand dredging as all of the above are located off the Vaitarna river.