Rampant dredging of sand across river basins and creeks and cutting down of hillocks for stone quarrying in Maharashtra will finally come under some scrutiny.
Following a Supreme Court order earlier this year, the state expert appraisal committee (SEAC), in its meeting held this month, has laid down guidelines that will govern all mining activities of smaller minerals irrespective of the size of the lease. Now, 41 such projects - mainly stone quarrying and sand dredging from Thane, Vidarbha and Marathwada - have come up for clearance before the panel. Earlier, only mining leases above 5 hectares of land required an environmental clearance.
However, the panel has sent all these 41 projects back to the drawing board and asked the miners to come back with a feasibility report of the activity with a clearance from local authorities. The miners will have to give information on the lease deed, the cost of the project, available reserves, ecology of the region, details of the minerals extracted, large scale layout plan and environment mitigation plan, before they can get an environmental clearance, without which no mining can be undertaken.
“This is going to come as a big jolt to all these activities, which are largely controlled by small-time contractors, who often give the rule book a go-by. We plan to put equal responsibility on local officials to ensure that environmental clearance is not given the go-by,’’ said a member of the SEAC.
The SEAC has also issued directives to all collectors who grant renewals and clearances for such projects to submit periodically all the proposals showing proposed activity on one map with details like reserves of minor minerals, overall extraction, etc.