The Apex Court of the country i.e. the Supreme Court of India vide its order dated July 24, 2019 issued notice to the Centre, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as well as the States of Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh to respond to the petition claiming alleging illegal mining within their territories.
A writ petition was filed against the rampant mining incidents for major and minor minerals being reported across the river basins in the States listed above. The petition emphasized the importance of sand as an important mineral of the society which is protects the environment in the below stated manner:
- Acting as a buffer against strong tidal waves and storm;
- Serving as a habitat for crustacean species and marine organisms;
- Used for making concrete, filling roads, building sites, brickmaking, making glass, sandpapers, reclamations;
- Encouraging tourism industry by offering beach attractions.
Discussing the impact of sand mining
The petition raised concerns the impact of sand mining on environmental degradation. Sand mining is the process of removal of sand and gravel where this practice is becoming an environmental issue as the demand for sand increases in industry and construction. Unscientific mining causes degradation of land, accompanied by subsidence and consequential mine fires and disturbance of the water table leading to topographic disorder, severe ecological imbalance and damage to land use patterns in and around mining regions. Sand mining may have an adverse effect on biodiversity as loss of habitat caused by sand mining will affect various species, flora and fauna and it may also de-stabilize the soil structure of riverbanks, reduction in the level of ground water and often leaves isolated islands.
With a view to regulate the mining activities being carried on in the country, following legislations are in force in order to equip the Central as well as the State Governments to ensure conservation of environment and the minerals:
- Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957
- Mines Act, 1952;
- Mineral Concession Rules, 1960;
- Mineral Concessions and Development Rules, 1998.
- Mines Rescue Rules, 1985;
- Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
Issue in concern
Allegations were made in the petition stating lack of the existence of a mining plan approved from a competent authority which is a prerequisite for obtaining a mining lease or environmental clearance and in contravention to the Sustainable Guidelines, 2016. The petition recommended for:
- Non issuance of Environment Clearance to any sand mining project without a proper Environmental Impact Assessment, Environmental Management Plan and public consultation;
- Approved mining plan to be a mandatory prerequisite for undertaking mining activities;
- Union of India not to grant any Environmental Clearance for sand mining project without taking into account the cumulative impact of the sand mining in the entire area/region;
- Termination of the leases of the entities engaged in illegal mining;
- CBI to register and investigate sand mining scams that have been highlighted in the present petition
The Supreme Court vide issuance of its order dated July 24, 2019 seeks responses from the Centre, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the 5 States mentioned above in order to ascertain the allegations of environmental degradation made attributable to them.