Pollution

Mahoba mess continues: NGT seeks report on stone mining

Case before green court alleges air, noise pollution    

 
By Divyansh Upadhyay
Published: Wednesday 10 August 2022
NGT seeks report on polluting stone-crushing units in Mahoba Photo: iStock

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) August 8, 2021 directed a joint committee to submit a report on the environmental damages caused by illegal stone mining in Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh. The committee comprises the UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) and the district magistrate, Mahoba.

The green court gave the order regarding a case about the negligence of UPPCB in taking action against a stone-crushing unit in Mahoba district for causing pollution.

“Stone blasting is taking place during the day as well as night, causing a lot of air and noise pollution and the stone-crusher unit is violating the environmental norms,” the applicant in the case, Kamlapat, wrote.

Dust is accumulating on agricultural fields and stones are also coming down from the hilly track to the agricultural field, he also alleged.

Not a new story for Mahoba

This is not something new coming up from Mahoba — the district has previously seen many such cases of illegal stone crushing and quarrying in court. Most of the stone-crusher units in the district have been violating the environmental norms for the last many years. 

Many petitioners have reached the NGT seeking justice after the regulatory authorities turned deaf ears to their complaints. The table below highlights some of the NGT orders related to illegal stone crushing in the Mahoba district:

Date

NGT order

Description

June 2021 Order of the National Green Tribunal in the matter of Madan Pal Singh & Others Vs Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board & Others  There was an allegation of violation of environmental norms by five stone-crusher units in the district. The tribunal formed a joint committee of CPCB, SPCB and the district magistrate, and penalties were imposed on such industries. The recovered amount was to be utilised for the restoration of the environment in the area.
August 2019 Order of the National Green Tribunal regarding stone crushers operating in Banda, Hamirpur, Mahoaba and Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh Stone-crushing units in these districts were running without consent to operate. Therefore, NGT asked the respective district magistrates to file an affidavit and mention the actions taken by them so far against defaulting units.
May 2019 Order of the National Green Tribunal regarding illegal stone-crushing units operating near agricultural land, Mahoba District, Uttar Pradesh The tribunal asked UPPCB and District Magistrate, Mahoba to submit a factual report on the illegal stone-crusher units operating near agricultural fields in Mahoba.

A 2019 article in Down to Earth on stone-crushing industries in Kabrai city in Mahoba district revealed how these units pollute the surrounding air.

The story read: 

In the year 1979, there were only two stone-crusher units. But with the rapid growth of industrialisation, now the district has around 400 units. Around 350 of them are in Kabrai.

NGT to intervene

Time and again, NGT has had to intervene in the cases of illegal stone crushing and serious air as well as noise pollution caused by them in the Mahoba district of Uttar Pradesh. In every case, the green tribunal has asked to form a joint committee of the state board and district magistrate and asked for a detailed report to understand the root cause of the pollution.

Conditions mandated by UPPCB for stone blasting are:

  • The height of the mining bench should be a maximum of 6 metres and the width at least twice the height.
  • Mining should be done from top to bottom and with making benches
  • The debris, especially the topsoil, removed during the mining operation should be collected in a systematic manner
  • The slope of the face should not exceed 60 degrees and there should be no undercutting anywhere
  • The pit formed as a result of mining work will have to be levelled and planted with debris
  • First-aid box should be available at the mining site for the safety of the workers and proper arrangements should be made for workers to rest
  • In view of the possibility of diseases arising from silica in mining, provision should be made for medical examination of workers every six months 
  • The guidelines issued by the Government of India / state government from time to time regarding environmental cleanliness and the orders of the Hon'ble Court should be complied with by the lessee
  • Explosives should be used within the stipulated time only. Before detonation, it is mandatory to raise a red flag and warn by using a siren 
  • Mining should be done during the day and blasting will be done at midnight

Big question mark on the efficacy of UPPCB

It is unclear how UPPCB, being a statutory organisation to implement environmental laws and rules within the jurisdiction of Uttar Pradesh, is unable to understand the seriousness of the problem. 

The board is good at granting consent conditions but weak at ensuring their proper implementation. This is clear from the grievances in court against illegal stone crushers that are not following the guidelines and creating massive air pollution.

Stone-crushing units are found across the country and the problem of air pollution caused by such units exists in states other than UP as well. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change should take adequate steps to overcome this crisis. 

Strict action should be taken against operators of such units for transgressing environmental norms. An environmental restoration plan should be prepared to ensure environmental compliances are met in the region. Only then can environmental degradation be prevented and the ecosystem impacted by the industry over the years be restored.

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