In a bid to check the activities of illegal sand miners, the Akwa Ibom State government, weekend, impounded ten pieces of dredging equipment being used in Nsit Ubium and Etinan Local Government Areas of the state. It also clamped down on six sand mining companies operating in the council areas and ordered the arrest of their proprietors while others involved in the business abandoned their sites on sighting the government team led by the state Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen.

Some of the impounded dredgers; No fewer than ten communities, it was further learned, are currently at risk of being submerged by flood as a result of indiscriminate excavation of land and illegal activities of sand miners.

The worst affected communities include Ikot Ekpan in Nsit Ubium Local Government Area and Ekpene Ukpa in Etinan where land excavation and illegal sand mining activities have become favourite occupations of the people. Speaking with NDV during what was tagged: ‘Operation Stop Illegal Sand Dredging,” the Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen described the invasion of the state by sand miners as an evil wind that must be checked. He said farming activities close to the sand dredging sites have been destroyed by the heavy duty trucks traversing the communities. “As it is now, landslide is imminent in our communities. So, we cannot fold our arms and allow this to continue simply because we want people to come in and invest in our state. This type of investment is hazardous to us as a people and as a state,” Inyang-Eyen lamented. Environmental hazards Environmental experts had earlier warned that some communities in the state might be submerged by flood among other environmental hazards if the government fails to stop the illegal sand miners. A Professor of Human Kinetics, University of Uyo (UNIUYO), Prof Rosemary Ebong, who spoke with the Niger Delta Voice noted with dismay the level of despolation being unleashed on the environment as a result of the unwholesome activities of the illegal sand miners and indiscriminate excavation of land across the state by some persons for pecuniary reasons. She said:

“One of the greatest problems the world is facing is that of environmental degradation, which increases every passing year and is causing grave and irreparable damage to the earth. This could also pose a serious threat to life and survival of man and other living organisms.”

She warned that with heavy downpour, the over 32 identified illegal dredging sites in the state could trigger massive flooding, which could cause colossal damage to homes and farmlands. Prof Ebong urged the state government to take drastic measures against illegal sand dredgers in the state who pose a threat to the already fragile environment.

Also, one of the elders in Ekpene Ukpa, Mr. Sunny Jonah, who spoke with the NDV, affirmed that though sand mining is lucrative, which explained the invasion of the communities by the many dredging companies scrambling for space to do business, “mining without conducting the necessary environmental impact assessment could spell doom for the communities.”