Odisha: NGT imposes ₹36 cr penalty on two persons for illegal sand mining
The NGT bench also asked the district magistrate of Mayurbhanj to file a personal affidavit stating what action was taken against the tehsildar of the area who had allegedly allowed the sand mining
In the highest ever penalty imposed on individuals indulging in illegal mining of sand from riverbed in Odisha, the National Green Tribunal has asked two people of Mayurbhanj district to deposit around ₹36 crore for illegal mining, royalty for the excess mined sand as well as the environmental damage caused by it.
In an order passed by the two-member bench of B Amit Sthalekar and Saibal Dasgupta, in three separate cases, the NGT asked mining contractors Pradeep Kumar Bindhani and Krupasindhu Singh of Mayurbhanj district to fork out the amount for illegal and excess mining from Budhabalanga riverbed.
The NGT bench also asked the district magistrate of Mayurbhanj to file a personal affidavit stating what action was taken against the tehsildar of the area who had allegedly allowed the sand mining.
In February 2017, Pradeep Bindhani was granted environmental clearance for sand mining in Dingiria area of Budhabalanga river over 6.526acres for mineable reserve of sand of 7,095 cubic metre.
He was granted Consent to Operate by the state pollution control board in May 2017 which was valid only up to March 2021.
He was allowed to mine 9cubic metre of sand per day with a cap on annual sand mining at 2,000cubic metre but Bindhani scooped 2,295cubic metres per day and 4.819lakh cubic metre a year which is 240 times of the permissible limit.
Similarly, in Arapata area of Budhabalanga river, Bindhani was granted environmental clearance in February 2017 over 7.36acres of area and Consent to Operate in April 2017 which was valid only up to March 2021.
He was allowed to mine 10cubic metre of sand a day with a cap on annual sand mining at 2200cubic metre but Bindhani mined 2,970 cubic metres per day and 6.23lakh cubic metres a year, which was 240 times of the permissible limit.
In Mahupura area of Budhabalanga riverbed, Krupasindhu Singh was granted a sand mining lease over an area of 13.72acres. Though the permissible limit of mining a day was only 10cubic metres and annual camp of 2,200 cubic metres, Singh extracted around 2,040 cubic metres of sand a day and 4.28lakh cubic metres per year, which was much more than the permissible limit.
The NGT bench ordered Bindhani, who is now behind bars, to pay up ₹20crore while Singh has to pay ₹16.27crore for a similar offence.
The bench also expressed its dissatisfaction over the lack of criminal action against former tehsildar of Badasahi, Mumtaz Maharana over allegations of she being in collusion with the mining contractors.
“In view of the overwhelming documentary evidence and the inspection report, it is established that the contractors and tehsildar, Badasahi were acting in connivance in theft and pilferage of sand from the sand beds causing theft of several crores of state revenue.
Though FIR has been lodged against the contractors, there is nothing on record to show that FIR has been lodged against Smt. Mamtaj Maharana, Tahasildar, Badasahi. We fail to understand as to why the State Respondents are shielding Maharana,” the bench asked.
Sankar Pani, lawyer for petitioner Radha Mohan Singh, said a team of OPCB deputed by NGT which inspected the sand mining operation, found gross violation of Mining Plan as well as the MMDR Act, 1957, EC and Water (PCP) Act, 1974 and Air (PCP) Act, 1981.
“The contractors used excavators and Hyva even though mechanical mining and use of machine in sand mining is prohibited,” said Pani.
The OPCB, which inspected the sand mining, reported that the excessive mining changed the natural river flow of river water through random and mechanical sand mining. It said mining occurred beyond lease area, without maintaining the safety zone and distance from the river bridge.
Noted environmental activist Prafulla Samantra said the NGT order on illegal sand mining from the riverbeds of the state would undercut and collapse river banks and lead to upstream erosion as well as downstream erosion.
“Excessive mining would lead to increased carrying capacity of the stream, resulting in the destruction of aquatic and riparian habitat through large changes in the river morphology. Continued extraction may also cause the entire streambed to degrade to the depth of excavation,” said Samantra.