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Maharashtra reported most cases of illegal mining in the country between 2013 and 2017

The state filed 712 first information reports (FIR) and one court case, while seizing around 1,39,000 vehicles used in illegal mining operations and collecting Rs267 crores as fines from offender.

mumbai Updated: Jan 15, 2018 00:40 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra,illegal mining,Mumbai
(HT File)

Maharashtra recorded 1,39,706 illegal mining cases between 2013 and 2017, the highest number in the country, revealed data submitted by the union environment ministry before the Rajya Sabha.

However, the state had one of the lowest number of prosecutions in such cases. The state filed 712 FIRs and one court case, while seizing around 1,39,000 vehicles used in illegal mining operations and collecting Rs267 crore as fines from offenders.

India recorded 4,16,410 cases during the same time, which means Maharashtra accounts for 33.5% of all cases in the country. Uttar Pradesh recorded 36,054 illegal mining cases, Madhya Pradesh 46,193, Karnataka 33,390, and Goa had 3 cases. The information was submitted in response to a query on the environmental impact of illegal mining.

The cases involve mining of sand, iron ore, bauxite, chromite, coal, and stone in Maharashtra. “The high number of cases in Maharashtra can be attributed to better detection, documentation and reporting related to illegal mining as the district administration in the state is more vigilant,” said Satish Gavai, additional chief secretary, state environment department. “The revenue administration and police are hand-in-glove with these illegal mining activities with areas distributed for mining purposes. This is not the case in Maharashtra, and the reason fewer cases are reported from other states.”

Illegal mining cases are being observed along fringes of tier I and II cities in Maharashtra where construction development is underway. The environmental impact includes loss of forest cover, habitat and biodiversity of an area, soil erosion, groundwater contamination and permanent destruction of hilly areas, said geologists. “Excessive mining close to infrastructure projects loosens the foundation. The long-term effects of such activities may lead to disasters such as bridge collapses or even inundation,” said V Subramanyan, geologist and former head of geology department, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.

The most important environmental requirement for a mining project is a comprehensive environment assessment programme, said Sumaira Abdulali from Awaaz Foundation, who filed the only case related to illegal mining at Bombay high court.

“The figures accurately indicate that illegal mining is rampant in Maharashtra. In spite of several regulatory measures, vested interests in the form of mafia have made this into an environmental disaster,” she said. “Policies are framed to increase revenue collection by regularising illegal mining of sand or other minerals by bringing it to the mainstream. Had it been the other way round, sand would have been used to restore the environment, and we would be seeing a few convictions.”

Gavai said the solution is to make regulations ‘people-friendly’ so that there is better compliance. “Under the state’s ease-of-doing business policy, we are already taking this up.”

First Published: Jan 15, 2018 00:36 IST