The ban on sand mining in Maharashtra’s coastal districts of Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Raigad and Thane has been lifted, after the state government promised the National Green Tribunal that it will ensure the mining will not affect the environment.
Revenue minister Eknath Khadse said on Thursday the state had convinced the National Green Tribunal (NGT) — which had imposed the ban last year.
The move is also expected to help the realty sector, as sand is an essential raw material for construction.
“The National Green Tribunal banned sand mining at many places. The state has been pushing for the removal of the ban, promising to take all precautions to maintain the ecological balance, even while allowing the mining activity. This has now been accepted,” said Khadse, adding the realty sector will benefit from the decision.
Noting that sand mining in coastal areas and of river and creek beds was harming the environment, the National Green Tribunal banned it in the coastal regions of many states, including Maharashtra last year. The Konkan region, where mining was rampant, was most affected by the ban.
However, at most places, the ban failed to serve its purpose, as the sand mafia continued mining on the coasts, despite several checks by the state.
The state officials who had tried to stop the illegal mining were beaten up.
The sand mafia’s control of the resource also hit the real estate sector, as builders had to purchase the sand at a premium from the mafia.
Builders said the move to lift the ban will bring down construction costs, as sand will become available.
“We won’t have to depend on the sand mafia. The government too will earn a revenue,” said Shadaab Patel, chairman and managing director, Platinum Constructions Private Limited.
But Patel said protecting the environment is also important.
“The gover nment should become strict about mining, and set a limit to protect the environment. There should a limit on the amount of mining activity allowed on the coasts,” Patel said.