Deduru Oya sand mining threatens environment | Sunday Observer

Deduru Oya sand mining threatens environment

6 December, 2020
Sand mining - File pic
Sand mining - File pic

Illegal sand mining in the Deduru Oya has destroyed the surrounding environment. The Supreme Court, in 2006, issued an order preventing mining and transporting sand from the Deduru Oya following a petition filed by several environmental organisations.

Geological Survey and Mines Bureau sources said that they have not issued any permit for sand mining in the Deduru Oya. But despite the ban and the lack of permits, organised racketeers have continued, unwilling to give up this lucrative, but illegal trade.

A team of five Police officers from the Kobeigane Police, including 32-year-old PC Nadeep Akash Ratnayaka was tasked with apprehending illegal sand miners at Hathalawa, Nikaweratiya. The team, in the early hours of November 28, was carrying out the Supreme Court order banning sand mining in the Deduru Oya.

Speeding towards Police officers

As the team approached, a tipper truck, transporting the illegally mined sand, driven by a 27-year-old man, had attempted to make a quick getaway. Even as the Police signalled the truck to stop, the driver only increased the speed heading towards the team of officers. Before PC Ratnayaka could get out of the way, the driver knocked him down, desperate to evade being apprehended. According to the Police, Ratnayaka was found dead on admission to the Nikaweratiya Hospital.

According to Public Security Minister, Read Admiral (Rtd). Sarath Weerasekara, since 2015, 15 Police officers, including Akash Ratnayaka have laid down their lives while on duty. The Minister said the officers were killed when attempting to apprehend suspects or while on road traffic duties.

His death has now left two children, both boys, fatherless and his wife a widow. A resident of the area itself, Ratnayaka had first served in the Police Special Task Force (STF) for nearly 10 years before joining the Kobeigane Police in 2017. According to his family members, Ratnayaka had been offered a transfer to Colombo, but had opted to stay in Kobeigane to be close to his family.

When the driver was arrested by the Police the next day, it was revealed that he had been found guilty of illegal sand mining on two previous occasions. Ratnayaka had also been part of a Police team that had apprehended the suspect on one of those occasions.

Recognition of service

The Police, in recognition of Ratnayaka’s act, took steps to promote him to the rank of Police Sergeant posthumously.

“Late Police Constable Ratnayaka, bearing the badge number 76013, has sacrificed his life to protect our motherland and the environment. Considering his valiant acts, the Inspector General of Police has promoted him to the rank of Police Sergeant posthumously,” Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

This was not the first instance where Police officers attempting to apprehend illegal sand miners were attacked in the same area. On March 30, 2006, Rasnayakapura Police OIC Crime, IP Pradeep Karunadheera was attacked by sand miners during a similar raid. Karunadheera and a team of officers, on a tip-off about large scale sand mining, had visited Singakkuliya, Nikaweratiya to apprehend the suspects.

But the team was attacked by the sand miners. Karunadheera lost 11 teeth. One of his eyes was so severely injured that lost sight in that eye. He also suffered facial fractures. He had to be hospitalised for nearly six months and underwent four surgeries following the attack. He was left disabled due to the injuries.

The Public Security Minister has promised that the families of these hero cops will be looked after. “Steps have been taken to ensure the welfare of their families,” he assured in Parliament recently.

According to DIG Ajith Rohana, based on the 2006 order by the Supreme Court, Police stations have continuously carried out raids to nab illegal sand miners. He said the Police will continue to carry out the task to prevent environmental destruction.