March 11, 2017 5:55:22 am
Over a month after The Indian Express exposed violations in sand-mining operations on the beds of the Godavari and Pranhita rivers in Sironcha in Gadchiroli district, the district administration has finally cancelled the leases of five of the 10 sand mines. Additional Collector Mahesh Awhad took the decision to cancel the leases after studying the responses of the six lease owners to the showcause notices issued to them. The mines had been issued notices asking why their leases should not be cancelled after raids on three of the six mining sites confirmed environmental violations five days after The Indian Express had reported them on February 8. The authorities had seized 74 trucks and four JCBs from the spot.
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“We have cancelled the leases under the provisions of the Maharashtra Mines and Minerals Extraction and Development rules, 2013, for serious environmental violations,” said Awhad. Some of the violations were using machines to extract sand, excavation after 6 pm and not complying with policy of mandatory compensatory plantation, Awhad said. “As regards depth of excavation, we didn’t find violation of stipulated 3-metre depth,” he added.
The five mines whose leases have been cancelled are — Nagaram 1 and 2, Maddikuntha and Wadadham in Godavari bed and Kotamaal in Pranhita bed. The Indian Express had visited all five mines and reported the violations after on-the-spot investigations.
The sixth mine which was issued the showcause notice, Ankisamaal, has been fined Rs 1 lakh because the only violation found was that the contractor had neither done the compensatory plantations nor submitted monthly reports, Awhad said.
The district administration had installed CCTV cameras at the sites with image receivers viewable at the local tehsildar office and the district collectorate. The administration has also started erecting a weighbridge to check overloading of trucks.
Last September, the Gadchiroli administration had auctioned leases for sand mining in the two riverbeds and granted over 45 hectares of area. The administration estimated that 4.2 crore cubic feet would be excavated from the mines and revenue generated would be Rs 32 crore — a windfall for the backward district.
Earlier this week, the Gadchiroli police arrested 27 truck drivers and two mine contractors — Veknatesh Yanganti of Wadadham site and Roshreddy Bandamwar of Nagaram mines — for the violations. Yanganti belongs to the BJP and is the chairman of the Sironcha Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee. He is the uncle of Ajay Yanganti, a close aide of District Guardian Minister and Minister of State for Tribal Affairs and Forests Ambrishrao Atram.
The contractor at the Wadadham site has been issued notice by the Sironcha tehsildar for alleged excavation outside the demarcated area. “That violation is dealt with under Maharashtra Land Revenue Code,” said Awhad.
The cancellation is appealable before the Divisional Commissioner of Nagpur and after that before the state government. “They can also move the High Court against it,” said Awhad said.
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