Amid the uproar over the suspension of IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal,the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday took judicial note of the environmental threat due to indiscriminate sand mining and prohibited such activities across the country without the necessary clearances.
The tribunal passed the order on a petition filed by the National Green Tribunal Bar Association,which alleged that those who opposed illegal sand mining,including field-level officers like Nagpal,were being victimised. Citing news reports,the association said a man was killed recently because he had opposed sand mining.
We restrain any person,company,authority to carry out any mining activity or removal of sand from river beds anywhere in the country,without obtaining environmental clearance from Ministry of Environment and Forests or State Environment Impact Assessment Authority,and licence from the competent authorities, said the tribunal headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar.
Asserting that the plea raised substantial issues and questions over implementation of various environment protection laws and Supreme Court orders,the tribunal sought explanations from the Centre,states and union territories over the steps taken to prevent sand mining.
Besides violations of law,the mining activity is being carried out on a large scale,causing state revenue loss which may be running into lakhs of crores of rupees… we find merits in this petition which raises substantial environmental issues and questions arising directly from the implementation of the Environment Protection Act and other Acts under Schedule I of NGT Act, noted the tribunal,while seeking replies from all the parties by August 14.
The NGT directed mining officers and concerned police officers of all states to ensure compliance of its orders. Initially,the tribunal had confined its scrutiny to the riverbeds and banks of Yamuna,Ganga,Hindon,Chambal,Gomti and Revati,but it later decided to widen the ambit of the petition after underlining that the issue of illegal sand mining had nationwide implications.
It took note of the argument that the Supreme Court,besides mandating the necessity of environmental clearance for all mining activities,had noted that sand mining was one of the causes of environmental degradation.
Uttar Pradesh state authorities have failed and/ or have intentionally not taken appropriate legal action against the project proponents (those carrying out mining) and thus have abetted and wilfully connived in allowing such illegal sand mining to take place in complete violation of environmental and other applicable laws, said the petition.