The State government is likely to go on appeal against Monday’s National Green Tribunal order staying sand extraction from riverbeds without the Environment Ministry’s clearance as it would severely affect development activities.
A final decision, however, would be taken after going through the detailed order of the tribunal, said sources in the government.
The interim order, the sources said, would deal a severe blow to the construction industry as seeking environment clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for each and every mining block would be a tedious process.
The Mines and Geology Department, under which sand extraction falls as minor minerals, has earmarked sand blocks less than 5 hectares so as to skirt the Supreme Court’s direction to seek clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
The tribunal’s order, however, has made environment clearance mandatory for every instance of sand extraction.
The sources also said that the direction should pave way for pushing manufactured sand in a big way, as it is the only alternative to natural sand.
While the demand for sand in the State is about 23 million tonnes a year, the availability of river sand is just about 7 tonnes. The rest is sourced from other process, including filter sand, the sources pointed out. Even the available natural sand is getting depleted very fast due to indiscriminate extraction.
The department has identified about 1,700 sand blocks, all less than 5 hectares, across riverbeds in the State except coastal, Bangalore and Ramanagaram districts.
The Public Works Department (PWD) has been extracting sand in about 550 blocks and the rest would be taken up soon, the sources said. It is also awaiting the revised sand policy for which a Cabinet subcommittee has been constituted by the Siddaramaiah government.
Sources in the PWD said that it is only the executing agency as per the sand policy. The department extracts sand in sites identified by the Mines and Geology Department, in association with the district administration. It engages a contractor who provides men and machinery and dumps sand either in stockyards or on dry riverbeds.
From April 1 to June 30, about 7 lakh cubic metres of sand has been sold realising revenue, including royalty, of about Rs. 36 crore to the government, the sources said.