The National Green Tribunal on Thursday issued bailable warrants against 17 persons for illegal mining of sand from the Yamuna in Noida and Greater Noida in Gautam Budh Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh.
The local police said these offenders illegally extracted sand using JCB earth-moving machines and trucks even after the tribunal on August 5 banned mining without requisite clearances.
The tribunal’s order had come days after the Uttar Pradesh government suspended (the order has now been revoked) IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, allegedly for taking on the sand mafia in the same area.
After the UP government on August 29 named 18 persons for the offence, the tribunal summoned all of them to explain why they should not be punished and made to pay for damaging the river floodplain. As only one accused appeared, the tribunal issued bailable warrants against all others.
The bench ordered that the 11 persons arrested and jailed for the theft of 80 per cent of the illegally mined sand, which had been seized, be produced before the tribunal for questioning on November 1.
Hindustan Times in August frontpaged a report, “Now, sand seized by Durga stolen.” The police filed two FIRs for the theft on August 13 and 14. Nagpal is reported to have seized 2,00,777 cubic meters of sand worth R8 crore.
Senior advocate Raj Panjwani said: “The tribunal reiterated its order that no mining will take place without the permission of the Union ministry of environment and forests or the state environment impact assessment authority.” The Supreme Court passed a similar order last year.
So many cases of illegal sand mining despite the August 5 order had prompted the tribunal to summon the police and administrative heads of Gautam Budh Nagar on August 29.
Miners are required to obtain licence from the MoEF or the SEIAA, depending upon the area of mining. Apart from causing revenue loss worth lakhs of crores of rupees, illegal extraction of sand more than what the river generates changes the river flow, flooding human habitations, threatening bridges, barrages and embankments, besides affecting marine life and groundwater recharge.