The construction industry, which was reeling under the effects of a ban on sand mining, can expect some relief with the state cabinet approving the sand mining policy on Wednesday.
The Bombay High Court had recently banned sand mining and asked the state to submit a policy on it, saying the absence of safeguards was leading to severe environment degradation along river beds.
“We hope the ban is lifted after the policy is presented in court,” said Narayan Rane, revenue minister, who headed the sub-committee of ministers that drafted the policy. The state has diluted the powers of the gram panchayat to reject sand auctions in notified zones on river beds. Gram panchayats have been given a month to clear such auctions, failing which their approval will be taken for granted.
If the gram panchayat does not want a sand auction in its area, the company can appeal to the sub-divisional officer, who will take the final decision.
“Only one-third of 4,500 gram panchayats had allowed sand auctions. Such an attitude could only have increased the scarcity,’’ Rane said.
The state will request the high court to lift the ban in the next hearing saying the policy was drafted after considering the concerns of the locals, the environment, the state’s finances and industry demands.
The government expects revenue of Rs 1,400 crore from giving sand mining licences this year. It has decided to allot 6 per cent of this to improve amenities in the village that allows sand mining.
The policy also allows the state to charge a 2 per cent green cess from the licence holder. The revenue from this will be used for conserving the village where sand mining takes place. As an environmental safeguard, the use of suction pumps in sand mining has been banned and will be allowed only in exceptional circumstances.
Sand mining has been banned on river beds where there has been considerable soil erosion leaving only five to six feet of sand. It has also been banned in villages facing water scarcity.
The policy is silent on measures to control the sand mafia or on dangers of soil erosion due to the removal of too much sand. The environment department’s recommendation to not mine sand from a particular spot for more than three consecutive years has also been left out of the policy.