The Punjab and Haryana high court has directed the union ministry of environment and forests to submit its reply within two weeks on a petition seeking directions to the ministry to decide all environment impact assessment and environment management plan reports for carrying out mining activities submitted by the Punjab government in June0 within 15 days.
The petitioner, Ranjit Singh of SAS Nagar, submitted before the division bench comprising chief justice Arjan Kumar Sikri and justice Rakesh Kumar Jain that the delay in taking the final decision on the reports was making the public suffer due to manifold increase in prices of sand and gravel.
The bench was informed that as per information received under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005, the Punjab government had submitted environment impact assessment and environment management plan reports to the Centre for environmental clearance for mining projects on June 25 and 29.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Rupinder Singh Khosla submitted that as per the notification dated September 14, 2006, issued by the Centre, its expert appraisal authority has to recommend the grant or refusal of the environmental clearance within 60 days. Thereafter, the regulatory authority has to take a decision for the grant or refusal of approval and convey the assessment to the project proponent within 45 days.
Surprisingly, the expert appraisal authority has not met to consider the project submitted for its approval as yet, even though more than four months (126 days) have passed since the submission of the project reports, submitted Khosla.
It was informed that the high court, through its separate orders dated August 17 and September 5, had banned mining in Punjab till the grant of environment clearance. It had not only brought the complete mining sector to a halt but also developmental works in the state had taken a back seat, the court was informed.
The case would now come up for hearing on November 19.