Construction activity in the state that had come to a stop because of the Bombay High Court’s stay on sand excavation, can resume soon.
The court withdrew the blanket ban on sand mining on Tuesday and endorsed the comprehensive policy a draft of which the state government placed before the court last week.
“The policy covers almost all the substantial issues and provides adequate measures to ensure that no damage is caused to the rivers, creeks and the environment in the process of sand excavation,” a division bench of Justice BH Marlapalle and Justice UD Salvi said.
“The policy has plugged the loopholes and also seeks to make government machinery accountable for its implementation.”
The court restricted the excavation of sand from rivers and creeks to the depth of two metres.
The bench lauded the policy’s initiative to empower village gram panchayats to decide whether to allow sand mining in their areas or not, and allocation of a part of the revenue from the environment cess levied on mining companies towards development work in these villages.
The bench said the use of mechanical devices for excavating sand is an issue the state should consider instead of leaving it to the collector.
On September 23, the court had imposed blanket ban on sand mining across the state for want of a comprehensive policy although the court had first expressed the need for a policy a decade ago.
The court was irked by the fact that sand mining permits were being issued without considering environmental degradation and deterioration of river beds.
The state government started working on the policy only after the court imposed a blanket ban. The ban hampered construction because sand was not available in the market to meet the demand.
The state cabinet finally approved a new policy on October 20. The new policy bans the practice of issuing permits and licences and says sand mining contracts will be granted only through competitive bidding. The state hopes this will ensure it does not lose revenue due to excessive exploitation of licences.
The new policy also provides for some penal action if mining contractors breach contract terms. Ravi Kadam, advocate general, had submitted a copy of a government resolution on the policy to the court on Monday.