Governance

Supreme Court gives conditional go-ahead to Bihar to start sand mining

Illegal extraction becomes rampant when mining is banned, says apex court

 
By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 15 November 2021
Supreme Court gives conditional go-ahead to Bihar to start sand mining. Photo: Agnimirh Basu

The Supreme Court passed interim orders November 10, 2021 permitting the state of Bihar to carry on mining activities through Bihar State Mining Corporation considering no damage is caused to the environment. 

Illegal extraction becomes rampant when mining is banned, the apex court noted, resulting in clashes between sand mafias and even loss of lives. 

Sand is used for constructing public infrastructure and other construction activities, and there is the need to ensure the public exchequer is not deprived of its share in legalised mining, the Supreme Court mentioned. 

Until the District Survey Reports (DSR) are finalised and granted approval by State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) and State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), it is appropriate that certain necessary arrangements are permitted, so that the state can continue with legal mining activities, the bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai said.

The following directions were passed by the SC in this matter: 

  • Bihar would undertake the exercise of preparation of DSR for the purpose of mining in all the districts of the state on a fresh basis. The draft DSRs have to be prepared by the sub­divisional committees consisting of the sub­-divisional magistrate, officers from the irrigation department, Bihar State Pollution Control Board, forest department / geological / mining officer.
  • The committee members have to undertake site visits and use modern technology to prepare the DSR, which has to  be done within a period of six weeks from the date of the apex court order (November 10, 2021).
  • After the draft DSRs are prepared, the district magistrate of the concerned district shall forward the same for examination and evaluation by the State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC). The same shall be examined by the SEAC within a period of six weeks and its report shall be forwarded to the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) within six weeks. The SEIAA would then look into the grant of approval to such DSRs within a six-week time frame. 
  • The SC emphasised that the process of preparing the DSRs and the approval by SEAC and SEIAA must strictly follow the procedures and parameters laid down in the Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change January 2020.

The SC order came in the wake of the appeal filed by the Bihar government challenging an October 14, 2020 National Green Tribunal (NGT) order. 

The NGT had directed the state of Bihar to undertake further exercise for preparation of a fresh DSR for Banka district.

The counsel (Atmaram Nadkarni) for Bihar informed the SC that the NGT had “grossly erred” in holding that unless SEAC and SEIAA grants approval to the DSR for the purpose of mining sand, the same cannot be carried out. 

The tribunal had erred in holding that the DSRs prepared by the state were without following the requisite procedure and without considering the relevant factors, he added. 

The old lessees continue to carry out mining activities by paying a meagre amount to the state government — a huge loss to public exchequer. In the alternative, he submitted that the state, at least, needs to be permitted to undertake mining activities through Bihar State Mining Corporation until the DSRs are finalised in accordance with the judgment of the Tribunal.

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