An independent authority may soon monitor digging for minor mineral excavation or quarrying in the state under the directions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). An independent authority will do justice to enforcement as “the collector cannot be expected to regulate it” stated the NGT in a hearing in Pune last week.
The bench has sought an explanation from the state environment department and the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) for their failure to set up a mechanism to ensure sand and minor mining activities complied with environment clearance conditions. The NGT was considering whether the district collector, in whose name the SEIAA issued environmental clearances could be expected to regulate violations, and whether there was any mechanism to ensure legal action against such offenders. The bench held that the collector being the project proponent, could not be expected to regulate it.
The state environmental appraisal committee’s TC Benjamin said that it was the need of the hour to have an independent authority to check illegal mining as several cases were coming up.
“In the absence of a proper enforcement mechanism, it is difficult to ensure compliance to the conditions enumerated in the environmental clearances… there is more possibility of exploitation of the situation by those indulging in murky business,” the NGT bench of Justices V R Kingaonkar and Ajay A Deshpande has observed in an order.
The bench has directed the secretaries of the state environment department and the SEIAA to appear personally before the tribunal at the next hearing on September 10 and explain why there was no compliance to its May 15 ruling that had sought an enforcement mechanism.
Activist Paramjeet Singh Kalsi had filed an application arguing that such mining activity was affecting the river system, including river banks and river beds, and polluting rivers. Kalsi’s application was over alleged large-scale violation of environmental clearance conditions by sand mining agencies.