In a major decision, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday directed the Madhya Pradesh government to stop sand mining on all riverbeds in the state during the monsoons to protect aquatic life-forms, which breed during the season.
It has asked the state government to file compliance within three days and stayed its earlier notification that had allowed mining till July 31.
The Bench also questioned how the state government could send contradictory signals on sand mining.
The NGT said that on the one hand, the state’s Fisheries Policy 2008 outlines that there should be no sand mining during the monsoon period as it happens to be the breeding season of aquatic life-forms, and on the other, it has been allowing mining during the monsoon period by issuing notifications.
NGT gave these directions during the hearing of a case filed by Kolar-based social worker, Amarkant Mishra. The Bench comprised Justice Dalip Singh, judicial member and Ranjan Chatterjee, expert member. The next hearing of the case is on July 21.
According to Mishra’s petition, the mining department issued a notification on June 30, extending the mining period by a month, till July end. Earlier, the mining period had expired on March 30, but auction-holders were given an extension for three months under MP Minor Mineral Rules 1996, from April 1 to June 30.
The Tribunal, however, on Monday stayed the state government’s June 30 notification that provided an extension allowing mining till July 31.
The state government’s counsel, Sachin Verma, said that the applicant had sought the compliance of a condition in the environmental clearance that says that “mining shall be carried out only between November 1 and May 31, i.e. during the non-monsoon period”.
Verma said that state environmental impact and assessment authority (SEIAA) had imposed this specific condition while granting environmental clearance to 61 sand quarries.
Verma further said that the state had exercised a power conferred under the minor mineral rules 1996 and had passed a common order, according to which the permission for the operation of a contract between a sand quarry contractor and the state government could be further extended for a maximum of three months.
During this period, the contract had to abide by all the conditions of the agreement. Verma said that before starting the mining operations, the contractor was required to execute the contract agreement for the sand quarries.
Verma added that the sand quarries had valid environmental clearance and there was no restriction imposed by SEIAA or ministry of environment and forests in all the 124 quarries operational on April 1, 2015.
Kaliasote course change: Govt probe ends
The state government on Monday informed the NGT that it had completed the investigation into who was responsible for illegally trying to change the course of the Kaliasote river in Bhopal by dumping hundreds of tonnes of rocks and soil on its riverbed.
The government’s counsel informed the NGT that the report of the investigation, in which two people had been found responsible, would be submitted to the NGT.
The information was provided to the two-member bench during of the hearing of the case filed by environmentalist Subash Pandey. The next hearing in the case is on July 23.
HT had reported on July 2 that the course of the Kaliasote river was being changed so that housing projects and residential structures could avoid falling under the 33-metre green-belt of the river.
On July 6, the NGT had directed the sub divisional magistrate Huzur Maya Awasthi to submit a detailed report on who was responsible for the activity.
The NGT had earlier directed the MP government to remove encroachments from 33-metre green-belt on both sides of the Kaliasote river and its riverbed.
According to the compliance report filed by the state government, the district administration had carried out a demarcation of 51 out of 59 kms of the Kaliasote river (length of both left and right bank considered together).
Of these 51 kms, 25 kms fall on the right side of the Kaliasote river and the remaining 20 kms fall on the left side of the river.
The administration sought a month’s time to submit its final report after the demarcation of the remaining 8 kms was completed.