After the Supreme Court’s order paving the way for legal mining of riverbed sand in Rajasthan, the Mines Department has launched action to stop the mining activities within the 5-km radius of rivers. As many as 173 sand mining leases on agricultural land in the demarcated areas have been cancelled.
The Supreme Court had on Thursday passed the order while accepting the recommendations of a Central Empowered Committee (CEC) permitting riverbed sand mining to be conducted after obtaining all statutory clearances and payment of applicable taxes. The order has allowed legal mining in the State after a gap of four years.
Survey by drone
Additional Chief Secretary (Mines and Petroleum) Subodh Agarwal said here on Saturday the mining activities in the remaining 23 leases situated outside the 5-km radius would be monitored to ensure compliance with the regulations. “Those violating the conditions of lease will be closed. An aerial survey by drone will also be undertaken by this month-end to check the activities.”
Mr. Agarwal, who has asked all District Collectors and SPs to implement the apex court’s directions, said the court order would facilitate legal mining, storage and transport of riverbed sand and provide relief to the people. The Department has stopped collecting departure tax from the trucks loading the sand, effectively prohibiting illegal mining.
The availability of legally mined riverbed sand, mainly used for construction of buildings, had drastically reduced after the Supreme Court’s order in November 2017 restraining all the 82 sand mining leases from carrying out mining activities in the absence of environmental clearances and a scientific replenishment study.
During the last four years, a mafia had proliferated in the State, operating with illegal mining in several areas, which had led to an exorbitant increase in the prices of riverbed sand. 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.
The CEC has 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 can be undertaken during the course of mining.