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NGT to Punjab: Immediately stop illegal mining in rivers

Compliance of these directions has to be overseen by the chief secretary of the state and should be included in the report to be furnished to the NGT on March 7.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh | Published: February 2, 2019 1:39:58 am
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. (Photo credit: Express file photo) The NGT has also directed that a restoration plan of the river ecosystems should be prepared and executed within a specified time frame, preferably three months. (Express File)

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered a slew of measures to be implemented by the Punjab government to check the alleged rampant illegal river-bed mining and has directed the chief secretary to appear before it with the compliance report.

The NGT issued the directions on January 31 in a case filed by Punjab-based advocate, Dinesh Chadha, with regard to illegal river bed sand mining in Ropar with the official state machinery turning a blind eye to it. The NGT bench, comprising Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel, SP Wangdi, K Ramakrishnan and Dr Nagin Nanda also took cognizance of a joint committee report on the illegal mining being done in Ropar.
The NGT has directed the state government to take immediate steps to prohibit illegal river bed mining activities, stop illegal extraction and transportation of river bed material, recover compensation for violations and take action against the vehicles used, and establish check posts at suitable sites.

The government has also been asked to conduct survey of river ecosystems, take steps for protection of such river stretches, which might be vulnerable, demarcate mine lease areas with pillars/fencing with geo-referencing, the raw material be accounted for and the working of stone crushers duly regulated in accordance with carrying capacity of the area.

The NGT has also directed that a restoration plan of the river ecosystems should be prepared and executed within a specified time frame, preferably three months. Compliance of these directions has to be overseen by the chief secretary of the state and should be included in the report to be furnished to the NGT on March 7.

The bench has also suggested that the compensation for illegal mining should be a deterrent of the level that it renders such activities non-profitable. “The vehicles involved may not be released unless 50 per cent of the showroom value of the new vehicle is recovered. The damages should include not only the cost of the illegally mined material but also for damage to the environment and for deterrent effect and for the cost of the ecological services forgone forever,” the order says.

The report of the joint committee of Central Pollution Control Board, director (mining), Punjab and the Punjab Pollution Control Board into illegal mining at three villages in Ropar-Harshabela, Swarha and Baihara has found several illegalities being conducted there. Mine lease area was not demarcated, mining was being done in unscientific manner and water sumps were being used. The committee also found that safety and stability of river banks was not being maintained, no plantation had been done as required and stone crushers were located near the river bed in violation of law.

The committee has recommended that the Punjab government should formulate rules which include cancellation of the registration of the vehicles, which are used for illegal mining from river bed. “The heads of the departments concerned should identify officials who allow the illegal mining to take place and initiate action against them after conducting detailed investigation,” the committee report read.

The NGT had earlier, in November 2018, come down heavily on Punjab government and imposed a fine of Rs 50 crore in a case involving pollution of river waters in the state. The bench had passed the order after clubbing several cases pertaining to pollution of rivers Beas and Sutlej.

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