Sand mining in Noida (Uttar Pradesh), Faridabad (Haryana) and Delhi is illegal as no environment impact assessment (EIA) has been done on such activities in these states.
Officials of the three states said no mining lease has been executed. These mining activities also do not have the mandatory clearance from the environment ministry or its state units.
"This has caused structural imbalance in the riverbed, loss of groundwater recharge potential and loss of habitat to plants and animals," said Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.
Riverbed structural imbalance can result in a sudden change in river course and floods and threats to bridges, barrages and embankments.
"In its expert report, the environment ministry has recommended that no sand mining should be permitted without a prior EIA; sand should not be removed from depths of more than three metres; there should be a distance of at least 1 km between any two blocks and the lease period should not exceed five years," Misra said. The ministry says that for any mining lease in an area of five hectares or more, environment clearance is a must.
This is a loophole the mafia is exploiting by carrying out mining in blocks of 4.3 or 4.9 hectares.
Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, said: "The extraction in blocks of less than five hectares, separated by 1km, is still illegal as their collective impact may be significant."
Misra quoted a Supreme Court order that said no mining can take place without environmental clearance unless states formulate their own rules based on the Centre's recommendations.
The fact that the suspended Greater Noida SDM managed to uncover many illgal sand mining cases in a short time showed how deep the rot is, Thakkar said. According to Misra, "Illegal mining is most rampant in Noida and Faridabad but in Delhi, particularly north of Wazirabad, the menace continues."
Mining thrives because of political nexus with the mafia. Demand for sand continues to increase due to new infrastructure projects and expansion of existing ones.