In a move that is good for the environment but not likely to be popular with the construction industry, the Environment Ministry has declared that it will be mandatory to take environment clearance (EC) from a district level authority in order to do sand and gravel mining in a lease area below five hectares as well.
In the present scenario, green approval is not required for sand mining below five hectares. This has led to illegal sand mining because of a tendency by miners to break leases into small sizes to avoid getting EC.
The new mandate, which follows a Supreme Court order, lays down guidelines that say no mining lease or renewal can be done without EC clearance regardless of size.
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On February 27, 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered that EC from the Environment and Forests Ministry was necessary for excavation of all minor minerals. It said: “Sand mining on either side of the rivers, upstream and in-stream, is one of the causes for environmental degradation and also a threat to biodiversity. Over the years, India’s rivers and riparian ecology have been badly affected by the alarming rate of unrestricted sand mining … .”
However, the Environment Ministry had pleaded before the Court to let state authorities give environmental clearance for less than 5-hectare plots. This will no longer be the case now.
The new guidelines say a District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA), headed by district collector or magistrate will appraise and grant the EC for sand and gravel mining in a lease area up to five hectares. This authority will also designate the river area that is suitable or prohibited for the mining.
This welcome move by the Government is likely to curb the rampant illegal sand mining prevalent particularly in states like Uttar Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar.