Mining stopped following National Green Tribunal sought Environment Clearance for it

Mining of river sand may be resumed for six months in Kerala after obtaining the quantity of sand collected from each ghat last year.

District Collectors have been asked to furnish the data in the absence of current audit report as mandated by the Kerala Protection of River Banks and Regulation of Removal of Sand Act 2011. The Act also stipulates that the Revenue Department shall carryout sand audit once in three years. However, no serious efforts have gone into this aspect, officials say.

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had earlier insisted that the “mining plan approved by the authorised agency of the State government shall inter alia include study to show that the annual replenishment of sand in the mining lease is sufficient to sustain mining operations at levels prescribed in the mining plan.” It had also suggested that mining should be carried out manually and the depth of mining should be restricted to “3m/water level, whichever is less.”

Sand-mining was stopped in the State for the past three months after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered Environment Clearance (EC) for it. The decision to resume sand-mining for six months was taken at a meeting convened by Environment Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan on Wednesday.

The meeting also directed the District Collectors to approach the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) for the EC without which river sand-mining will not be allowed. The EC will be valid for five years if the current sand audit report is made available, the officials said.

Audit not done

It was pointed out that the current sand audit had not been done for the rivers of the State. If the Act is strictly implemented, sand-mining would come to a halt abruptly, they said.

Quota to be fixed

While considering the requests from the districts, the SEIAA would assess the quantity of sand which could be mined from each ghat and decide on the quota for six months on a case to case basis, said an official who was part of the deliberations.

The government had cleared a request from Kannur district after the district administration had obtained the EC.

The SEIAA had earlier rejected the requests from Malappuram, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Kozhikode for sand mining. The Collectors of these districts were asked to file details of sand mined from each ghat in their areas and utilisation of River Management Fund.

They were also directed to file affidavits to SEIAA offering to implement the e-manal scheme, an online process for issuing permits for sand-mining.

Introduction of e-passes could check the unauthorised collection and distribution of river sand, the officials maintained.

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