Chief Secretaries of Tamil Nadu, Kerala asked to file report

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) decided to set up an expert committee on illegal sand mining to carry out any orders that it may pass in future and to prepare a comprehensive report on the issue. The committee will also carry out a comprehensive zoning and mapping to delineate areas where mining could be permitted and to what extent.

Hearing the case filed by the NGT Bar Association, the tribunal specifically banned beach sand mining in the coastal States citing specific instances of Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Wednesday. The NGT Bench ordered the Chief Secretaries of the two States to file a report on the issue.

In the case of Gautum Budh Nagar, Uttar Pradesh, the Bench headed by the chairperson of the tribunal, Justice Swatanter Kumar, noted that illegal mining had continued despite earlier court orders and asked the Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of police why the tribunal should not take action against them for allowing illegal sand mining.

The Uttar Pradesh government was asked to provide a list of illegal sand miners to the court within two days.

The tribunal besides asking the States to file detailed reports before it in two weeks also asked any member of the public at large to provide more information to the tribunal on cases or incidents of illegal sand mining in the country.

For the States it listed down specific information that they will need to file.

The tribunal ordered the States to inform of regulations framed since the February 2013 order of the Supreme Court to ensure regulated mining. The States have also been asked to submit information details of how many persons have been granted permission by the Environment Ministry or the State environment authorities to carry on mining activity including the details of licenses or leases granted.

While Uttar Pradesh has been given two days to file an affidavit specific to Gautum Budh Nagar, all States have been told to file affidavits in two weeks of how many cases of illegal mining were caught by the different wings/departments of the States and what action has been taken and conviction rate achieved in cases of illegal mining. “We direct all the States to place the names of all the persons who are caught carrying on illegal mining activities in any part of the country on the next date of hearing positively,” the court ordered.

On beach mining, the court noted, “Illegal mining is stated to be going on in different parts of other States as well. Particular reference has been made to the State of Tamil Nadu and the State of Kerala. It is stated that around 2,30,000 tonnes beach sand mineral has been quarried in Vaippar village without permission of any Government Authority.” The court ordered the chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu and Kerala to file personal affidavits on the facts before the next date of hearing.

The petitioners, through Senior Advocate Raj Panjwani, had made a special representation in the hearing on illegal beach sand mining. They noted that while the rare earth metals being extracted were important for several sectors, an ecological balance had to be maintained and a regulated approach taken which was not being done at the moment. They brought cases of alleged illegal beach sand mining in the two coastal States to the bench’s attention.

Mr. Panjwani speaking to The Hindu later said, “After the court’s orders, people at large are open to reporting cases of illegal sand mining. People can also write and provide information to the NGT Bar association if they want to highlight illegal sand mining or any information pertaining to it. We are keen as petitioners to pursue such cases and information with the tribunal.”

The tribunal has also asked the State governments as well as the environment ministry to suggest names of experts to be put on the committee it wishes to set up to investigate the matter, report to the court and formulate comprehensive mining plans.