The National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned the mining of sand from rivers across the country without requisite approvals. The order comes amid the controversy over the UP government suspending IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, who had taken on illegal sand mining business in Gautam Budh Nagar district.
Most of the sand mining in major river beds across India is done without permission from the environmental bodies and in connivance with local authorities. This is despite the fact that environmental bodies have technical tools such as satellite mapping of river beds to gauge the extent of sand mining and can take action.
But seldom do the bodies mandated to protect environment take action against illegal miners.
That was the crux of the petition filed before the tribunal on sand mining in major rivers such as the Ganga, Yamuna, Chambal, Gomti and Revati. The plea quoted Hindustan Times’ reports to indicate that Nagpal’s action had resulted in additional revenue for the state government.
The petitioners said that massive illegal sand mining was causing a serious threat to the flow of the river and environment of the region. Extraction of sand more than what the river generates impacts marine life and forces it to change direction.
“When sand and boulders are removed in an unimpeded way using heavy machinery, erosion increases,” said Himanshu Thakkar of civil society group South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.
The green bench headed by NGT chief Swatanter Kumar on Monday said the Supreme Court had clearly stated that sand mining on either sides of the river, upstream and in-stream, is one of the causes for environmental degradation and also a threat to bio-diversity.The tribunal also said that majority of people removing minerals from the river bed had no licence to extract sand. The miners are required to obtain licence from the environment ministry or the state environment impact assessment authority, depending upon the area of mining.
As per environmental rules, the state government has power to allow mining in an area of less than five hectares. The provision is manipulated by the state governments by breaking bigger mining areas into smaller than five hectares units to bypass the mandatory permission from the environment ministry. For the rest, permission of the environment ministry is required.
The tribunal said besides violation of law, illegal mining activity on a large scale causes loss of revenue running into lakhs of crores of rupees.Issuing notice to state governments, the NGT restrained any person or company from carrying out mining activity or removal of sand from riverbeds anywhere in the country unless they have requisite permission and licence. “The deputy commissioners, SPs and mining authorities of are directed to comply with the directions,” the tribunal said.
Amendment in mining rules
Lucknow: To check illegal sand mining in Uttar Pradesh, the state government is contemplating to bring amendment in mining lease rules. The aim is to give new lease for mining and to permit a landowner to carry out the mining activity on his plot. The mining department officials feel that the number of mining lease — 1900 is too small for a state like Uttar Pradesh. HTC