Environmental nod must for new sand quarries

It may take a few months for authorities to open new sand quarries on the Cauvery-Coleroon river basin in the wake of the recent order of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.

One of the decisions taken at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Saturday was that sites for new quarries should be identified and approval from the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) secured.

The court order, which has banned more than five-year-old sand quarries in certain central districts, has made it mandatory for the authorities to secure environmental clearance for the mining of sand, a minor mineral. It has to be obtained from the SEIAA.

Quoting EIA (environment impact assessment) notifications issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests in September 2006 and May 2012, the order has also stated that the clearance from the SEIAA is required for sand quarries with lease area less than 50 hectares, including sand quarries, with an area less than five hectares.

Long process

Acknowledging that obtaining the clearance is “a long process,” the court has said that a perusal of the EIA notification of September 2006 revealed that the process involved various stages — (i) screening; (ii) scoping; (iii) public consultation; (iv) appraisal; (v) grant or rejection of prior environmental clearance; and (vi) post environmental clearance monitoring. It has also mentioned that “considering the various stages involved in obtaining environmental clearance, we feel that it would take at least a minimum of two-three months for obtaining such environmental clearance.”

It is against this backdrop that the court has broadly divided the sand quarries into two groups — those in operation for more than five years and those for which permission has been granted recently.

The order has stipulated that in respect of those quarries that have been allowed to operate for three months, the Public Works Department should approach the SEIAA in three weeks to file necessary application and the Authority should pass orders within two months from the date of receipt of application from the PWD.

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