Unrestrained stone chip extraction at different quarries in Sylhet district are going on unabated. Therefore, many stone workers are killed and injured there as the poor workers have to work at ditches 40 to 50 feet deep with risk. The illegal stone extraction is not only claiming the lives of workers, it is also damaging the environment as well as the ecology.
A total of 76 people met their tragic end in last three years while collecting stones from seven stone quarries in Sylhet. The stone quarries are situated at Jaflong of Goaighat upazila, Lovachhara of Kanaigaht upazila, Jaintiapur upazila and Companiganj upazila in Sylhet.
In this backdrop, the local people said that the unauthorised stone quarries in Sylhet have turned into death traps. They alleged that some influential people are engaged in using poor labourers for stone extraction by digging ditches manually without any legal permission from the authorities concerned. They are continuing their illegal activities, defying the local administration.
The authorities concerned sometimes launch drive against the illegal stone extraction and destroy the tools used for the stone extraction. In the face of drive, often the stone looters change their strategy.
Some locals of Kanaighat and Jaintiapur upazila alleged the influential groups receive news ahead of the drives because of internal connection. “Most of the times, the drive is nothing but eyewash,” said Kamal Uddin, resident of Lovachhara area in Kanaighat. The latest incident of death took place on January 20. A day-labourer was killed and three others were injured in a slide at a stone quarry at Companiganj upazila.
Liton Miah, 23, son of Mostafa Miah of Dalura Narayantala village in Sunamganj, met his tragic end while he and others were illegally extracting underground stones from a deep hole at a quarry at Shah Arefin Tila, a hillock at the upazila. A huge chunk of earth fell down on the workers. Liton succumbed to his injuries later on that day.
Police in this connection arrested Abdus Sattar, manager of stone trader Shahin Miah who employed the workers to extract the underground stone illegally. Two other persons also met their tragic end last week while collecting stones manually from ditches of stone quarries.
Abdul Hye Al-Hadi, chief executive of ‘Save the Heritage and Environment’, said that the stone workers are facing tragic death during illegal stone extraction and the incident of death is on the rise. Alongside with Liton Miah, at least 76 people were killed in the stone quarries in the last three years, he informed.
He further said that the death of stone workers could only be prevented if environmental laws are strictly enforced. He, however, said that the illegal stone extraction affects the environment adversely. Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Sylhet M Kazi Emdadul Islam said that they often launch drive against the illegal stone extraction. They will continue the drive, he added.