Green tribunal halts sand mining in coastal Maharashtra

Gujarat and Goa told to instruct police stations in the coastal areas to take immediate steps to stop illegal sand mining in areas which fall under the coastal regulation zone

By Srestha Banerjee
Published: Saturday 08 February 2014

One of the photographs submitted to National Green Tribunal by Awaaz Foundation showing illegal sand mining at Awas beach in Alibaug, Maharashtra

The National Green Tribunal has stepped in to curb illegal sand mining in the coastal areas of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa after banning it in Kerala and Tamil Nadu coasts last year.

The bench chaired by justice V R Kingaonkar, while hearing a petition regarding illegal sand mining in the state, said, “no sand mining is permissible in the coastal zone under the CRZ Notification.” According to Section 3 of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification 2011, sand mining is prohibited in the coastal regulation zone (CRZ). The bench ordered a halt on all sand mining activities in areas that fall within CRZ, particularly in the coastal districts of Thane, Ratnagiri, Raigad, Sindhudurg and Navi Mumbai, until the next order.

The bench also asked the authorities concerned not to issue any more auction notices or grant licences or permits for mining sand in areas that fall within CRZ of these districts. 

Illegal sand mining in coastal areas of Maharashtra was brought to the notice of the tribunal through an application filed by the Mumbai non-profit, Awaaz Foundation. The petition has challenged indiscriminate sand mining and dredging activity that has been going on for about a decade now in the creeks, tidal waters, estuaries and other coastal areas of the state. “Sand mining and dredging has become a huge commercial activity along the coastal areas of Maharashtra, and rampant mining is being carried out in violation of the CRZ Notification” says Sumaira Abdulali of Awaaz Foundation, petitioner of the case.  The situation is particularly alarming in the coastal districts of Thane, Ratnagiri, Raigad and Navi Mumbai, she adds.

Taking cognisance of the submissions of the petitioner and the photographs showing heavy activity of sand extraction in the coastal areas, the bench asked the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority and collectors and commissioners of all districts of the coastal zone to submit status reports on sand mining and take immediate measures to stop all illegal sand mining activity. The bench has also directed the states of Gujarat and Goa to give instructions to the police stations in the coastal areas to take immediate steps to stop illegal sand mining in areas which falls under the coastal regulation zone.
Earlier court intervention

The appellant in the case initially filed a petition before the Bombay High Court in September, 2006.  The application sought a halt to sand mining in areas that fell within CRZ. The high court, in August 2009, ordered a halt on all “activities of excavation, transportation sand mining of sand illegally by dredging of sand from the CRZ zone” in the coastal districts of Maharashtra. In another matter of sand mining before the Bombay High Court, filed by Sagar Shramik Haat Pati Vaalu Utpadak Sahakari Sanstha, a union of manual sand excavators, the court directed state of Maharashtra to finalise a sand excavation policy.  On Oct 2010, the state revenue and forest departments formulated a policy for excavation of sand, which included provision for taking action against illegal excavation of sand. In view of the new policy, the Bombay High Court revoked the ban on sand mining the same year.
The state policy was revised in March 2013, pursuant to the order of the Supreme Court that made environment clearance mandatory for sand excavation, and other legal matters involving sand mining in the state.
Have coastal concerns been addressed?

The policy of the Maharashtra government as revised in March last year outlines provisions for auction of mine leases for sand mining,  issuance of mining permits, scientific mining practices and the penalty for illegal mining operations. For sand mining in areas under CRZ, the policy notes that prior approval from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority should be obtained, and it is mandatory on part of the contractor to adhere to the environmental and coastal rules and regulations.

But illegal sand mining in the coastal stretch of the state continues unabated. Department of revenue officials admit there is a problem. “Though the policy requires the state maritime board to give recommendations on the available sand quantity and the depth to which sand excavation can be permitted, breach of the legal mandate continues to be reported,” says a department official. During the course of hearing in NGT on Tuesday, Suresh Pawar ACP Navi Mumbai, submitted that so far 57 cases have been registered in connection with illegal sand mining.


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