An environment ministry committee has confirmed that illegal sand mining was taking place on river banks in Gautam Budh Nagar, a cause for suspension of IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal.
Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan had constituted a committee under a ministry official Dr Saroj to find extend of illegal mining in the area, days after Congress president Sonia Gandhi had expressed solidarity with Nagpal.
"It is evident that rampant, unscientific and illegal mining has been going on at various locations in the Gautam Budh Nagar district along the Yamuna river," the three-member committee said in its reported on Saturday.
The committee members visited seven locations - Hindon bridge, Yamuna bridge, Mamnathal village, Gaddi village, Kundli village, Raipur Khadar and Yakutpur - and found sand mining at all locations except Hindon bridge and Raipur Khadar. No mining was taking place at the time of the visit.
At Yamuna bridge on Hamidpur-Palval road, the committee found heaps of sand lying on both sides of the road. The villagers told the committee that the mining was taking place and some of them have lend their farms to store sand.
In Mamnathal village, deep excavated areas were noticed and in Gaddi village, the committee found out that the excavated area was filled up with water before their visit. There was not much water before the day of visit - August 6, the committee members were informed by local villagers.
The committee found that the mining had been going on in the area without mandatory approval of state environment impact assessment authority (SEIAA) and state pollution control board.
As per the Supreme Court order of February 2012, renewal of mining lease of less than 50 hectares is granted by the SEIAA and more than that by the environment ministry. The National Green Tribunal had recently banned sand mining across India without requisite environmental approvals.
To prevent any further illegal sand mining, the committee has suggested that the Uttar Pradesh government be asked to frame minor mineral concession rules within six months, as required under the mines and minerals development act.
It also wanted the state to restrict the mining to three meter depth in river bed and only to limited number of stretches on the river. "For carrying out mining in proximity to any bridge or embankment adequate safety measures should be worked out on case to case basis," the committee said.
The committee also said that while seeking environment clearance for mining leases the state government should undertake cumulative impact study due to sand mining and adopt a cluster approach for collection of baseline data.
It also suggested an annual replenishment study from recognised institution to find out how much sand can be lifted every year and a ban on in-stream mining.