Andhra Pradesh introduces lottery system for allotting sand mining leases
The Andhra Pradesh government has announced its much-awaited new sand mining policy. It has decided to do away with the existing system of public auction of sand reaches based on tenders. Instead, a new system of drawing lots for granting the sand leases will be introduced. As with the earlier policy, the new policy too bans inter-state transportation of sand and using machinery for sand mining.
The new sand mining policy is based on the recommendations of a seven-member Cabinet sub-committee of ministers led by minister for Mines and Geology Galla Aruna Kumari. The state government appointed the committee on September 1 following uproar over rampant exploitation of river sand.
"We have formulated the new policy keeping in mind various observations made by courts and concerns of affected people,” Aruna Kumari explained in a press conference held on September 23 in Hyderabad. She also said that the state was exploring the possibilities of making sand an essential commodity as it is in Punjab. The state government has decided to fix the standard scheduled rate (SSR) for sand at Rs 325 per cubic metre at pit heads in sand reaches.
The district authorities have to fix the selling price which should be not more than 20 per cent of the SSR. The sand quarrying must be carried out only for the quantity fixed in the mining plan and it should not exceed the thickness stipulated in the Andhra Pradesh Water Land and Trees Act (WALTA).
As per the new policy, sand acquired through desilting of reservoirs by the irrigation department will be utilised for government works. Farmers can remove sand accumulated on their own land after paying seigniorage fees to the government. However, sand from rivulets, streams and tanks falling under the administrative jurisdiction of block panchayats could be used free of cost for local needs and the Andhra Pradesh government’s Indiramma housing project for the poor without paying the seigniorage fee.
Sand reaches in tribal areas will be allocated to the local societies through gram sabhas as per the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act or PESA with help of the Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC) and Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA), said the minister.
Following a public interest petition against indiscriminate sand mining in the Krishna River, the Andhra Pradesh High Court had stayed sand mining and auction of sand reaches in the state in March. The Supreme Court had also rejected the state's petition to vacate the lower court's order.
The state government subsequently approached the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. So far, the SEIAA has granted permission for mining in 71 sand reaches in four rivers—the Krishna, Godavari, Pennar and Vamsadhara, says B R V Susheel Kumar, director of mines and geology department.
The sand reaches for which leases were allocated but works were yet to commence will be brought under the ambit of the new sand policy. Bidders of those reaches, where quarrying is being done and who agreed to the new policy, have to sell sand at the new rate.
The government is expected to bring out the detailed policy and a related government order on it in a couple of days.