Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (August 14, 2020)

Down To Earth brings you the top environmental cases heard in the Supreme Court, the high courts and the National Green Tribunal

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 14 August 2020
Gavel. Source: Getty images

Illegal sand mining in India

The oversight committee headed by Justice SVS Rathore filed its report on August 13, 2020, before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on illegal sand mining in Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Odisha, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

The committee recommended that district survey report (DSR) needed to be prepared carefully. They should be based on physical surveys and replenishment studies. Since sand deposition was a dynamic issue and needed to be regularly updated, the committee said.

While awarding lease deeds, important environmental parameters like deposition and replenishment of sand, areas of erosion, distance from infrastructural structures needed to be considered. A mechanism to ensure the actual mining activity conforms to the approved mining plan and the approved Environment Management Plan (EMP) should be in place.

Besides the statutory system of departmental inspections, there has to be a system of annual mandatory environmental audit by experts.

There should also be an effective mechanism for restoration of environment in case of its degradation due to mining, the report stated. A portion of the royalty could be reserved for it as environment restoration fund.

Storage godowns should be at least five kilometres away from the river bank. Otherwise, illegal mining could be carried on under the garb of storage by the leaseholder himself, the committee report said.

Sand mining in J&K

No mining leases had been granted without obtaining environmental clearances from the authorities concerned, the report filed on behalf of the Chief Secretary, Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, informed the NGT.

Jammu & Kashmir had little scope for exclusive sand mining, as sporadic sand occurs with river bed material across Jammu & Kashmir. 

Only one mining lease of minor mineral sand had been granted in district Doda after obtaining the statutory clearances for mining plan and environment clearance. There was no report of occurrence of sand mining in forest areas. 

To curb the unlawful extraction and transportation of minor minerals and prevent the loss to the government exchequer, the Geology and Mining Department had put in place a robust monitoring mechanism for regular checking of vehicles, machines, dumpers for seizure and penalty.

Around 3,684 vehicles were found to be indulging in illegal mining. A fine of Rs 1.57 crore had been imposed also, according to the report. It was uploaded to the NGT site on August 14, 2020. 

Sand mining in Jharkhand

The Jharkhand State Mineral Policy, 2020, was being formulated and was under approval. The process would facilitate systematic and sustainable mining and mineral activities within the threshold limit of forest and environment.

This was stated in the compliance report filed by the Department of Mines and Geology Department, Jharkhand.

The Jharkhand State Sand Mining Policy, 2017, has been implemented. Based on the DSR, sand ghats are to be categorised under two different categories — Category-I and Category-II.

Category-I sand ghats would be used only for noncommercial purposes and would be maintained and supervised by Gram Panchayat / local government.

Category-II sand ghats would be allocated to Jharkhand State Mineral Development Corporation (JSMDC) Ltd for at least five years.

Mining would be carried out by JSMDC Ltd, following all statutory provisions of guidelines / rules / acts. JSMDC Ltd would adopt scientific and sustainable mining practices and ensure a transparent, fair and effective delivery system.

JSMDC Ltd had implemented sand management system to ensure efficient monitoring of sand mining operations at sand ghats and for sale of sand at stockyards.

The SMS would be able to validate the permitted quantity of sand to be dispatched to the buyers and also validate customer vehicles through its integration with JIMMS portal.

SMS would also provide reconciliation features and audit functionalities of the transported quantity of sand. Jharkhand was also implementing star rating framework for minor mineral blocks on similar lines as that of major minerals wherein 50 per cent weightage was on the parameters:

  • Systematic and sustainable mining
  • Protection of environment and conservation of water 

With implementation of the star rating of minor mineral block, pollution due to minor mineral block was expected to be controlled.

Noise pollution in Delhi

The NGT on August 11 directed the constitution of a monitoring committee, to be headed by a former judge of the High Court, to ascertain the status of compliance and suggest further measures for enforcement of noise pollution control measures.

The court noted that even though certain steps had been taken by the Delhi Police, Delhi government, Delhi Pollution Control Committee  and the Central Pollution Control Board — further steps were needed to ensure that noise pollution norms were enforced at the ground level for “protection of public health and the environment in the light of orders already passed.”

Representatives of the chief secretary and the police commissioner ought to jointly take stock of the situation on a weekly basis, the NGT said.

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