Indian authorities and mining officials deny the existence of the dangers of an illegal sand mining industry, but a Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation found miners are dying to meet rising demand from a booming construction sector. David Pollard reports.
Hi-rise ... and lo-tech. These boats link two different world's with one resource. Sand - vital for India's building boom. And these miners - or divers - can fetch around 300 buckets of it a day. (SOUNDBITE) (Hindi) SANDEEP KHAKHA, SAND MINER, SAYING: "It is all dark inside the water. I have to judge where the sand is with my leg. I then get a grip in the sand with my feet and press the bucket into the sand to fill it. And then I pull the bucket out. I wait five seconds and go back." There are hundreds of boats every day - and around 75,000 men from India's poorest areas. Risking untreated chemicals and industrial waste in these waters close to Mumbai. (SOUNDBITE) (Marathi) LAKSHMAN DABU BHORE, SAND MINER, SAYING: "While I worked there my head started hurting. Blood started coming out of my ear and nose. My chest started hurting. After coming out from the water, within 15 to 20 minutes of sitting on the boat in the sun my head would spin." At around a thousand rupees or 15 dollars a day for a boat full of sand and gravel, you can earn nearly four times as much as the average daily wage. In a nation of 1.3 billion people, this is a lucrative business. One some are dying to pursue. (SOUNDBITE) (Marathi) CHANDRAKANT SHANKAR MEGWALI, FATHER OF DECEASED SAND MINER, HOLDING PHOTO OF SON, SAYING: "He is my son. He died while working. We don't know whether the bucket hit him or what happened." There are no official numbers for how many lose their lives. One estimate puts the annual value of illegal sand mining in India at around 150 million dollars. Indian authorities and mining officials deny the existence of its dangers - no price ticket yet on the heavy cost to these workers.