Environmental clearance paves way for riverbed sand mining

February 14, 2022 09:29 pm | Updated 09:31 pm IST - JAIPUR

Environment clearance issued to as many as 60 mining areas has paved the way for legal mining of bajri (riverbed sand) in Rajasthan, more than four years after the Supreme Court banned the sand mining activities in riverbeds until a scientific replenishment study was completed. The mining will start in almost all riverbeds of the State after the completion of necessary formalities.

The Supreme Court had on November 16, 2017, restrained 82 large lease holders in the State from carrying out mining of riverbed sand. The mining was banned until a scientific replenishment study was completed and the Ministry of Environment and Forest granted the clearance. The apex court later appointed a Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to look into the issue of illegal sand mining.

The availability of legally mined riverbed sand, which is mixed with cement for construction of buildings, had drastically reduced after the Supreme Court’s order. A mafia had proliferated in the State, operating with illegal mining in several areas, which had led to an exorbitant increase in the sand prices. The huge gap in demand and supply also led to delay and closure of several construction projects and posed a major challenge to the State government on the law and order front.

In November last year, the Supreme Court accepted the CEC’s recommendations permitting riverbed sand mining to be conducted after obtaining all statutory clearances and payment of applicable taxes. The order allowed legal mining in the State after a gap of four years.

The CEC recommended that the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issue environmental clearance to all valid holders of letters of intent, as suggested by the Expert Appraisal Committee, within three months and without insisting on submission of the scientific replenishment report as a precondition. The replenishment study could be undertaken during the course of mining.

Additional Chief Secretary (Mines and Petroleum) Subodh Agarwal said here on Monday that a notification had been issued for extending the validity of letters of intent for mining leases from 13 months to 68 months. Six new mining leases have been issued in Jalore, Bhilwara, Rajsamand and Tonk districts.

According to a rough estimate, there is a demand of 70 million tonnes of riverbed sand in the State. With the issuance of leases for all the 60 mining areas, the issue of shortage of sand will be completely resolved, providing relief to the construction and real estate sectors and generating revenue worth Rs.600 crore for the State government.

Mr. Agarwal said the permission had been issued in the 60 cases recommended by the Expert Appraisal Committee as per the directions of the Supreme Court. Mines Department’s Additional Director B.S. Sodha will monitor and coordinate all the cases related to riverbed sand.

The Mines Department has stopped collecting departure tax from the trucks loading the sand, effectively prohibiting illegal mining. The State government has also brought a policy on manufactured sand (M-sand), while giving the industry status to the units producing it for construction works and reducing the dependence on riverbed sand.

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