NGT panel visits Una to probe illegal mining in Swan river
A five-member panel constituted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) visited Una district of Himachal Pradesh on Thursday to probe the allegation of illegal mining in Som Bhadra or Swan river.
The panel headed by former judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court Justice Jasbir Singh has regional officers of the Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Central Soil and Water Conversation Research Institute (Dehradun) and the Himalayan Forest Research Institute, Shimla, as its members.
Una DC Raghav Sharma and officers of state mining department and pollution control board were also present during the inspection. Justice Singh asked the state and district mining authorities to conduct a survey of illegal mining and submit a report in this regard.
He said the panel would make some recommendations to curb the illegal mining like geo-fencing of mining lease, use of global positioning system (GPS) in the vehicles carrying the mining material and setting up a control room.
“The panel would also recommend reducing the mining lease duration from five to two years. Recommendation would also be made that the after completion of mining period, the same area should not be leased out for at least one year,” he said.
Justice Singh directed the mining authorities to fix permanent level signpost in each mining area indicating that the mining cannot be done beyond a specific depth from the surface level.
He expressed surprise that while the mining was being carried out in the entire area, no one was to be seen during the inspection. If they were doing mining as per norms, it should have continued today, he said.
The panel later also visited a stone crusher in the Basal area and directed the operators to maintain a record of labourers engaged and wages paid to them. He observed that the stone crusher had not built storage tanks for gravel washing water and it was being released into the river.
He also directed to take immediate steps to curb the air pollution caused by the stone crusher units and minimise the damage to the agriculture. Amandeep, the complainant in this case, told the team that mining mafia already knew about the visit of the panel and had filled up the pits dug earlier.
The NGT had constituted an independent five-member committee on March 2 on a petition filed by Amandeep.
In his petition, he stated that the Centre had sanctioned ₹ 922 crore for channelisation of the river. Under the project, 73 rivulets were also channelised to save the agricultural land from flooding in monsoons.
He alleged that the sand mafia, enjoying political patronage, under the garb of mining licence has been lifting sand and gravel from the riverbed in an unscientific manner.
Amandeep alleged that overloaded trucks were damaging the roads and causing pollution while the unscientific mining was defeating the purpose of channelisation and may also cause damage to the bridges.