Expressing concern over growing illegal mining in the country, the Supreme Court has ruled that States and Union Territories can now grant leases for mining minor minerals in less than five hectares or renew them only after prior approval from the Union Environment Ministry.
A special forest Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and C.K. Prasad directed the States and UTs to give effect to the various recommendations and guidelines framed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in its March 2010 report, and submit compliance reports before the court within six months.
“Over the years, India’s rivers and riparian ecology have been badly affected by the alarming rate of unrestricted sand mining which damage the ecosystem of rivers and the safety of bridges, weakens river beds, destroys natural habitats of organisms living on the river beds, affects fish breeding and migration, spells disaster for the conservation of many bird species and increases saline water in the rivers,” said Justice Radhakrishnan, writing the judgment for the Bench.
The Supreme Court passed the directions while dealing with the auction notice issued by the Haryana government on June 3 and August 8 last year, and alleged illegal minings in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
The Bench also expressed surprise at the report submitted by the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on January 4, 2012, in which no mention was made of illegal mining activities and the serious ecological dangers posed by it.
“The report, however, is silent with regard to the disturbing trend of serious illegal and unrestricted upstream, in-stream and flood plain sand mining activities and the prevailing degree of degradation of the sites and the environment, especially on the river beds mentioned earlier,” the Supreme Court said.