Peerzada Rayees from Sail Beerwah in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district has been in search of justice for more than a week now. Last year, Rayees set up a fish farm with the support of the Department of Fisheries, J&K. He was planning to sell his crop towards the end of May but before he could do so, his entire crop of trout fish died during the intervening night of May 23rd and 24th, as the fresh water supply to his farm was diverted by people involved in Illegal riverbed mining in Sukhnag river. The average weight of the fish was between 200 to 350 grams. Till date neither has any FIR been registered against the accused people nor has any senior officer from administration visited his farm. Rayees and his brothers had made an investment of Rs 9 lakhs on this farm but before they could reap its benefits, the entire fish population in his farm had perished.

The fish farm named Peerzada Brother’s Trout Fish Farm is located on Beerwah Tosamaidan Road at Dooen Kuel Bagh, village Sail Tehsil Beerwah of District Budgam. Rayees had done his Masters Degree in Chemistry and when he couldn’t get a Government job he started a fish farm in March 2023. His brothers were assisting him in this business and in a few weeks they were planning to sell the first crop on the eve of Bakra Eid.

Until May 23rd night, the water supply to the fish farm was normal but the same was cut down in the wee hours of May 24th. On Friday/ May 24th 2024, Rayees’ brothers woke up around 4:30 am and found a large number of dead fish in the tanks. When the family inquired how the water supply was seized they came to know that people who were involved in illegal riverbed mining had cut the supply line to enable them to take out boulders and other riverbed material.

A lot of muddy water had also entered the tanks initially and that was also responsible for the death of fish. For the last 6 days Rayees has been moving from Pillar to Post but there is no action at all. Even the Police Station Beerwah hasn’t filed any FIR in this case till date, even as Rayees tried to lodge a complaint at the police station twice.

This author also highlighted this issue on social media and posted the pictures of dead fish on X/formerly Twitter. No action has been taken by the District Administration Budgam even as I had tagged the District Magistrate Budgam and officers of Geology and Mining Department.

On Wednesday afternoon, the aggrieved filed a written complaint before Sub Divisional Magistrate-SDM Beerwah who marked the representation to his subordinate officer i.e Tehsildar Beerwah. This author spoke to Teshildar Beerwah who reassured that action will be taken and that he would personally visit the farm in the next few days. The officers of Fisheries Department told Rayees that they can only forward his case to the higher ups and advised him to file a complaint in the online portal of the Lt Governor’s grievance cell.

Illegal Riverbed Mining in Sukhnag

The construction company-NKC Project Pvt Ltd which was involved in illegal riverbed mining in Shali Ganga at Panzan village in Chadoora around 2021 has now shifted its operation to Sukhnag river which is around 30 kms from Panzan. In September 2022, the National Green Tribunal- NGT banned mining in Shali Ganga after this author moved a formal application against NKC Projects Pvt Ltd in 2021. It took me almost 1 year to persuade the NGT that NKC company was using heavy machinery during mining which isn’t allowed.

My counsel produced the GPS photos which proved that heavy earthmovers , JCBs and L&T cranes were being used by the company and in fact the said company tried to lie before the tribunal that they were not using machines. In-fact they challenged the NGT order in Supreme Court of India, which vacated the stay but then they again had to undertake the riverbed mining manually using labourers. The company preferred to move to another location Sukhnag river, Sail Beerwah.

For more than a year, NKC Projects Pvt Ltd has been taking out boulders and other riverbed material – at least 100 dumpsters ( big trucks) per day in Sail Village Beerwah in Budgam. No Environmental Clearance -EC has been obtained by this company from J&K State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority-SEIAA which is mandatory as per the guidelines of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change -MoEF.

In Budgam only two streams have been e-auctioned for riverbed mining, Shali Ganga and Doodh Ganga, and the said work has to be done manually as per the specific and standard guidelines of J&K State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority- JKSEIAA. The work of this authority in J&K has been assigned by MoEF Govt of India to the Department of Environment Ecology and Remote Sensing but this department is also not able to do justice as they are not taking action against the violators due to a dearth of staff and other logistical issues. In Shali Ganga and Doodh Ganga, the use of heavy machines has been curbed after NGT’s intervention last year but in places like Sail, Beerwah as well as other districts, the loot and plunder is rampant. Moreover, the government officials are unmoved

Minor Mineral Concession Rules 2016

In order to control illegal mining, the J&K Govt in 2016 came up with a new set of rules called the Jammu and Kashmir Minor Mineral Concession, Storage and Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules 2016. In an order dated March 19, 2019 the Industries and Commerce Department decided to allot mineral blocks through e-auctions. District-level e-auction committees were constituted, headed by District Magistrates. Senior officers and engineers from the PWD, Irrigation and Flood Control, Geology and Mining and Finance departments are members of these committees.

The Department of Geology and Mining has also moved from open auctions to e-auctions. So far, more than 173 mineral blocks across Jammu and Kashmir have been notified for the e-auctioning but Sukhnag river doesn’t figure in that list at all. Before 2016 the Geology and Mining Department would only take royalty from the people involved in the mining trade including truck drivers carrying the riverbed material (RBM) like sand, boulders, nallah bajri etc. Infact, the allotments made through e-auction also prohibit contractors from using heavy machinery. The Minor Mineral Concession Rules 2016 say that riverbed mining is to be done manually or maximum use of semi mechanised machines is allowed. The Earth Movers , JCBs and L&T cranes are highly mechanised machines and their use is completely illegal. This has been authenticated by several SC court orders, NGT orders, High Court judgements and Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines 2016. These guidelines were passed by none other than the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).


Heavy riverbed mining leads to the increase of velocity of the flowing water, thereby eventually eroding the riverbeds. The sand aquifer helps in recharging the water table and its progressive depletion in the river is accompanied by the lowering of the water table in the nearby areas. Sand depletion in the streambed or riverbeds causes rivers to deepen. This enlarges the river mouths and coastal inlets.

The impact of illegal riverbed mining is not only causing depletion in the water table, drying up of springs or defacing of the river landscape but this is impacting our fisheries industry as well. The livelihood of fishermen living around Rambiara in Shopian and Pulwama, Doodh Ganga in Budgam and Srinagar or Vaishav in Kulgam district has been impacted. Now the fish farms which get water supply from the nearby rivers and streams are also under threat. Irony is that the companies and contractors who are involved in illegal riverbed mining are not reprimanded or taken to task by Govt officers. It is only on the orders of NGT that authorities are acting against illegal riverbed mining and in majority of the areas the administration including police are acting as mute spectators. The case of Rayees is before us. The authorities have neither arrested anyone nor has an FIR been filed till date against the perpetrators of the crime that led to the death of 2500 fish. Is any one listening?