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The sand saga

Sand, a vital factor in construction activity and which has been under close scrutiny mainly for illegal extraction, is going to be regulated soon. As per the directions of the Supreme Court, the draft guidelines for sustainable sand extraction have been published by the Ministry of Environment during the first week of September, 2015. The draft guidelines include criteria for extraction and parameters for issuing mining lease. It also includes exempted list of users. The salient features of the guidelines are:

· Environment Clearance (EC) for sand extraction is compulsory.

· The power for giving EC has been decentralised according to the extent of area.

· EC clearance has been proposed on the basis of recommendations of Environment Impact Assessment authorities at different levels.

Discretionary powers for EC clearance:

1. For lease areas up to 5 hectares, the authority will be the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) headed by the District Collector, which will have 4 members. The DEIAA will be responsible for proper and sustainable management of sand extraction in the district. The DEIAA will designate the area/stretch in rivers suitable for the purpose. It has also to identify areas prohibited for sand extraction and notify them.

2. There will be a District-Level Expert Appraisal Committee (DEAC) to examine the applications and make recommendations to DEIAA.

3. Area above 5 hectares and below 50 hectares will be granted by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) on the basis of recommendations of the State Level Appraisal Committee (SLAC).

4. For areas above 50 hectares, the Environment Ministry will handle the applications.

Exempted list

Exemptions are considered based on eco-balance, possible natural disasters, need for maintenance of infrastructure etc. Some specifics of exemptions are:

a) Extraction of ordinary clay or sand manually by potters and earthen tile makers.

b) Removal of sand from agricultural field after floods

c) Dredging and de-silting of dams and reservoirs

d) Periodical de-silting of barrages and canals as part of its maintenance.

Sand is considered a minor mineral. However, the quantity of sand used in construction activities is in relation to the cement used. It is roughly estimated that for every tonne of cement used, the sand requirement is 6-7 times.

The main sources for sand are riverbeds, flood plains, lakes, reservoirs, agricultural fields, coastlines and channels in the plains.

It is strongly felt that strong regulations coupled with strict monitoring will act as a deterrent to illegal extraction which adversely affects the eco-balance, apart from erosion of valuable revenue to States.


The draft guidelines, when into force, will lead to creating an elaborate monitoring mechanism. As further deterrent, very high amount of penalty including seizure of illegally extracted sand and the machinery used for mining, transportation etc. Penal provisions including jail term have been included for those who violate the guidelines and extract in excess of what has been authorised. High-level technology applications like GPS, Android and bar coding are proposed for strict vigilance.

Views of all stakeholders like miners and State governments have been sought by the Centre within the prescribed time.

The price of sand skyrocketed over the last 15-20 years by more than 100 times in some States, which has also a bearing on prices of residential buildings, apartments and commercial space.

Control of sand extraction with proper guidelines will bring down the cost of construction substantially and help in reducing the price to the consumer.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2021 3:07:01 AM |

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