Replenishment study of riverbed sand must for sand mining in Uttar Pradesh: NGT

Replenishment studies must be done by credible institutions, says court  

By Susan Chacko
Published: Wednesday 11 May 2022

Uttar Pradesh should not permit any sand mining before completing replenishment studies for riverbed sand, a two-member bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed May 6, 2022.

Such studies for riverbed sand must be done by credible institutions, following due procedure, in accordance with Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining, 2020.

Uttar Pradesh must ensure that regulatory authorities are adequately equipped and capable to assess quantities of mined material, the order said. When it comes to “instream mining”, it has to be ensured that the machinery permitted or used otherwise “comply with semi mechanised mining operations in true sense,” it added. 

In all districts with potential for sand-mining, environmental damage assessment has to be carried out and annual assessment reports placed in public domain on the websites of the mining department, as well as the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board.

The NGT order came in the wake of applications filed before the court on the occurrence of illegal mining in the submerged water area in Kanwara and Bendakhadar villages in Banda district. The application also highlighted violations of the Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines (SSMMG), 2016 and Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining (EMGSM), 2020.

Case History

July 2, 2021: NGT clubbed the complaints filed by Raj Kumar and Ramkaran Karn against Durge Trading Company and by Ashish Kumar Gautam for the alleged violation of environmental norms during sand mining. The court directed the Additional Chief Secretary (ACS), Mining, Uttar Pradesh to furnish a report on the status of the district survey report and replenishment studies for Banda district, status of the in-stream mining in submerged water and monitoring mechanism in place.

March 8, 2022: The matter was heard by NGT. The court noted that no steps were being taken by Uttar Pradesh for compliance of directions of the court, specifically the NGT order dated February 26, 2021.  

The court therein after doing an “exhaustive review of the issues related to sand mining” had issued directions, including the mechanism for enforcement of environmental norms.

Even the report required from the ACS to furnish a report about the compliance status including the status of DSR and replenishment studies for Banda district and also in-stream mining in submerged water and monitoring mechanism was not furnished. “More than six months have expired and matter has been deferred several times, awaiting response,” the court said.

May 6, 2022: NGT asked the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute (CMPDI) to do the replenishment study of rivers flowing in Banda after a report was filed by the District Officer, Banda March 31, 2022. 

The institute has started the replenishment study of rivers of Banda and the work is in progress. Around 17 mining leases are in operation in the district and they have proper environmental clearances as well as the consent issued by the UPPB Lucknow under the provisions of Water Act, 1974 and Air Act, 1981.

The NGT noted that replenishment study as required under the SSMG, 2016 and EMGSM, 2020 has not been undertaken prior to the auction in terms of EMGSM, 2020.

According to EMGSM, 2020:

Replenishment study for river bed sand is required in order to nullify the adverse impacts arising due to excessive sand extraction. Mining within or near riverbed has a direct impact on the stream's physical characteristics, such as channel geometry, bed elevation, substratum composition and stability, in-stream roughness of the bed, flow velocity, discharge capacity, sediment transport capacity, turbidity and temperature.

For sustainable river sand mining, it is necessary that the mine pits formed as a result of sand excavation are refilled with sand by natural process of replenishment in a reasonable period of time so that the area is again available for mining.

With regards to the allegation of instream mining in submerged water, the ACS has “orally stated” that no such instream mining is permitted. However, in the reports filed before the tribunal, no such statement has been made on behalf of the state.

The ACS has informed the court that replenishment study would be conducted prior to auctions in future and with regards to the current leases, ongoing replenishment study would be expedited. In the light thereof, the leases would be renewed, if necessary. Further, such studies for all districts in UP would be completed by December 31, 2022 and for Banda by June 30, 2022. 

The allegations of instream mining would be verified and if found true, the same would be discontinued, assured Roshan Jacob, secretary of geology and mining, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

Second-most exploited natural resource

Sand plays an important role in delivering ecosystem services across marine, delta, beach, river and underground environments. It helps in controlling erosion, delivering nutrients, contributing to food security, and regulating the quality of aquifers. It also provides habitats and breeding grounds for diverse flora and fauna, thus supporting biodiversity.

Sand, gravel, crushed stone and aggregates constitute the second-most exploited natural resource in the world after water. Their use has tripled in the last two decades to reach an estimated 40-50 billion metric tonnes per year. 

The demand is driven by factors such as urbanisation, population growth, economic growth and climate change, according to the 2019 United Nations Environment Programme report Sand and sustainability: Finding new solutions for environmental governance of global sand resources.

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