Mining

Daily Court Digest: Major environment orders (October 7, 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: Wednesday 07 October 2020

Environmental clearance

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) filed an affidavit before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) October 6, 2020.

The affidavit was about the notification MoEF&CC had issued March 28, 2020, which exempted prior environmental clearance (EC) for certain activities.

The notification had been challenged in court by Noble M Paikada.

Some activities that would not require prior EC under the March 28 notification included:

  1. Extraction of ordinary clay or sand by potters to prepare earthen pots, lamps, toys etc
  2. Extraction of ordinary clay or sand by earthen tile makers
  3. Removal of sand deposits on agricultural fields
  4. Extraction of sand and earth from sources situated in a Gram Panchayat
  5. Community works like de-silting of village ponds or tanks, construction of village roads, ponds or bunds undertaken under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment and Guarantee Scheme, other government sponsored schemes and community efforts
  6. Traditional occupational work of sand by Vanjaras and Oads in Gujarat
  7. Activities declared by the state government as non-mining ones

The MoEF&CC had, prior to the notification, exempted the above-mentioned cases by issuing certain office memoranda and circulars from time to time.

The March 28 notification was issued in public interest and the notification was for the aid of general public, according to the affidavit.

It had provided assistance to potters, farmers, Gram Panchayats, Vanjaras and Oads. It had also helped in the execution of all non-mining activities declared by state governments, the affidavit added.

The notification was challenged in the Supreme Court (SC) by the non-profit Society for Protection of Environment and Biodiversity. The SC had dismissed the petition July 27 and thus the notification was adjudicated by the apex court and upheld, the affidavit said.

Embankment breach

A check dam near the ash dumping site of Sasan Power Ltd (SPL) in the Siddhikhurd village of Singrauli district could have played a role in the breach that occurred April 10 this year.

SPL had constructed two ash ponds for the disposal of ash generated from the coal burning, according to a report of the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board joint committee.

The ash was collected in two forms: bottom ash and fly ash. SPL had also intermittently disposed ash in two low-lying sites called Island 3 and Island 4.

The breach happened when a poclain was working for the routine strengthening of the top of the embankment and slipped on the downstream slope. Its excavating bucket removed a part of the slope while making an attempt to hold itself on the slope.

A stream was observed at the site of the breach during the inspection by the Joint Committee. It had not been present when the ash dumping started at Island 4.

An important change that occurred on the upstream of the disposal site of Island 4 was the construction of a check dam on a stream around May 2019. The check dam was just a couple of hundred metres away from the site of the breach and was very near to the plant boundary and periphery of Island 4.

In the altered situation, the water table in the area must have risen and since Island 4 was very close to the check dam, the ground water under it must have also risen.

There was a build-up of hydrostatic pressure on the embankment as the water table arose. Even though it was triggered by the excavating bucket of the poclain — the report said that with altered hydro-dynamics, the embankment would have failed eventually.

Illegal sand mining

An affidavit was filed by Ajay Pandey with the NGT as additional evidence to prove that illegal sand mining was taking place in the districts of Etawah, Auraiya, Jalaun and Kanpur Dehat of Uttar Pradesh and Bhind of Madhya Pradesh.

Pandey mentioned an incident where a truck carrying illegal sand was seized June 13 near Anantram Toll Plaza in Auraiya district on the Kanpur-Delhi National Highway. But when the police went to the Toll Plaza for taking the accused in custody, the truck had disappeared.

A first information report was subsequently registered against the truck owner and driver. The police also said that the truck had disappeared due to the connivance of the sand mafia in the area.

At least 13 trucks had been seized by the police on the Chambal river bridge connecting Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in Etawah district between July 5 and July 6, 2020.

The trucks were coming from Bhind district of Madhya Pradesh and going towards Uttar Pradesh, loaded with illegal sand and concrete, according to the police.

The affidavit was uploaded to the NGT site October 7.

Mining in Panchnad

No illegal mining was being carried out in the districts of Etawah, Jalaun and Auraiya district in Uttar Pradesh, according to a report filed by an Oversight Committee headed by Justice SVS Rathore.

The conclusion had been reached on the basis of the inspection reports submitted by the district magistrates of the three districts.

There was no storage of sand at Muradnagar. In Bijalpur, plot number 3 had been duly allotted for five years to the leaseholder, Pandey Brothers. Due to the monsoon season, no mining activity was taking place in this area. No illegal mining was prevalent in the Panchnad area, according to the report.

The committee report was in pursuance to an application filed by Ajay Pandey alleging illegal sand mining in river Yamuna and its four tributaries — Chambal, Kwari, Sindh and Pahuj — which merge in it at the area called Panchnad.

The committee, however, concluded that no further action was required in the matter.

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