In the second part of three-part blog series SANDRP presents an overview of steps taken by Central and State Governments on this issue of river sand mining practices in the year 2016.
The year 2016 started with a welcoming development when none other than the Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi himself, while delivering inaugural address at 103rd session of Indian Science Congress, in Mysuru on January 06, 2016 cited the importance of rivers in human history. Emphasizing the value of rivers, he stressed on the use of science and technology to understand the impact of urbanization, farming, industrialization and ground water use and contamination on the river eco-system. Revering the Rivers as soul of nature, the PM emphasized to make renewal of Rivers an element of a larger effort to sustain Nature.
Contrary to this, on January 06, 2016, the Union Transport Minister revealed Government plans considering use of river sand for national highways construction. The minister particularly mentioned sand of river Yamuna to be used in construction of national highways and agreements would be signed with states to seek approval for using sand from their rivers. The report ironically mentioned it as innovative moves to boost infrastructure development. Interestingly the Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines 2016 from Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) condemned the use of sand in concretization including its burial under highways despite very high value of minerals found in the sand.
In the same month the MoEF&CC came out with a draft notification for a new sustainable sand and minor mineral mining policy applicable form January 1, 2016. Proposing to decentralize the process of granting environmental clearance the draft notification prescribed creation of District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) for screening mining proposals followed after district level survey report. As per the draft policy District, State and Central level authorities were eligible to approve environment clearances (EC) for mining up to five ha, 5-50 ha, over 50 ha respectively.
Recommending use of scientific tools such as bar code for monitoring of movement of mined-out material from source to destination, the draft specified guidelines for allowing or prohibiting the mining in particular areas. Citing the highlights of new policy, Prakash Javedkar, the then environment minister asked State governments not to approve mining leases without submission of digital maps of proposed area by bidders.
Following this, the environment ministry on March 31, 2016 planned to hold a national workshop of all the officers for effective implementation of bar coded technology designed to control illegal extraction of sand from rivers in country. According to The Economics Times, March 31, 2016 report, many states were using the technology in various industries including mining of sand, iron ore and coal for tracking the movement of natural resources.
On June 12, 2016 MoEF&CC released Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines 2016. Stressing on reduction in consumption of sand and focusing on alternative sources, the guidelines suggested tapping of sand accumulated at the bottom of dams to prevent the excessive river sand mining and at the same time enhancing the dams’ utilities. The guidelines also stressed on promotion of alternative substitutes like manufactured sand, fly ash, waste from steel industry and thermal power plants etc.
On June 28, 2016 the environment ministry, to make clearance processes transparent, launched a web portal to facilitate online submission and tracking sand mining requests. The web-based application automated the entire tracking of proposals including online submission of a new proposal and editing/updating details of proposals at each stage of the workflow.
On November 02, 2016 the Union mines ministry asked State Governments and several public sector units (PSUs) to consider using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as ‘drones’, in areas of mining sector such as exploration, tracking vehicle movements, land boundary fixation and mapping forest area. The organizations like Geological Survey of India (GSI) and Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) were asked to consider using drones for different purposes.
Then on June 14, 2016 the ministry relaxed Environment Clearance norms for 18,000 small mines and quarries in Rajasthan, which were facing closure for want of EC, following an NGT order. The MoEF&CC reportedly issued a notification on July 01, 2016 days before the NGT was to hear the matter on July 5, 2016. As per the notification, majority of small mines (of area up to 5 ha) and mining clusters less than 25 ha could get their ECs from the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority.
The new mining policy reportedly also led to confrontational situation between Sates and mining companies, and between Environment and Mining Ministry. According to The Indian Express, report, before January 2015 many states through Letter of Intent (LoI) had promised miners ECs before the grant of mining license. However, the environment ministry in September, 2016 informed the Union mines ministry about absence of provisions in the law enabling MoEF&CC to give ECs to mining leases granted without auctioning process as recommended by the new policy. Notably under the old law, the firms were granted mining licenses by the states on a discretionary basis. With environment ministry’s objections, the mines ministry was exploring the options of taking help from law ministry. The companies also had no way but to go to court.
As per Government data, in total 288 mining proposals were stuck – for the want of the ECs – either with the state or the Centre. A meeting to resolve the issue had taken place between the two ministries on September 20, 2016. With the January 11, 2017 set as deadline for lease execution, the Centre was learnt to be working overtime to clear them as soon as possible.
As per The Times of India November 25, 2016 report Central Railway Authorities in Maharashtra had written 11 times since 2012 to various agencies in the State including Thane District Administration highlighting the threat to railway bridges thus to public safety due to illegal sand mining at several places but got lukewarm responses from them.
After demonetization, while taking actions against illegitimate exchange and deposition of new currency, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on December 21, 2016 arrested Tamil Nadu’s sand mining baron Shekhar Reddy. According sources the role of Tamil Nadu State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), which gave licenses for sand mining, was also being probed as Income Tax Department had also conducted raids on the SEIAA officials to probe the link of officials to sand mining tycoon.
STATE GOVERNMENTS ACTIONS
Jammu and Kashmir The State Government on June 25, 2016 cancelled order of granting mining lease to a non-state subject after directions from the Assembly Speaker. According report the Director of the Geology and Mining Department was also suspended. On June 29, 2016 the State Assembly Panel also recommended revocation of statute regulatory order (SRO) on mining rules that allowed grant of leases to non-state subjects. The Jammu and Kashmir Minor Mineral Concessions, Storage, Transportation of Minerals and Prevention of Illegal Mining Rules, 2016, had a provision permitting non-state subjects to carry out mineral excavation in the state.
The Govt on Nov 30, 2016 ordered immediate banning of mining activities at Athwajan and Pantha Chowk quarries in the city outskirts on National Highway, terming stone extraction at these sites as ecologically dangerous and harmful for the local populace. The decision faced wide scale protest from quarry workers who feared loss of their livelihood. According to another report the unregulated extraction of minor minerals from the rivers was going on unchecked. As per a 2015 report, the Government was losing nearly Rs 300 crore annually due to illegal extraction of sand, gravel and boulders from rivers due to a nexus between politicians and sand mafia.
Himachal Pradesh On February 12, 2016, District Administration Solan intensified its crackdown on illegal mining activities in Baddi industrial complex. Tractors caught transporting illegally mined quarry material, were fined between Rs 10,000 and Rs 25,000, while tippers up to Rs 50,000. The police had collected over Rs 40,000 from eleven such cases in two days. According report, despite all the efforts the Government had got little success in curbing it effectively. Acting against the illegal quarrying of riverbeds in Palampur, on June 21, 2016 the District Administration dismantled the roads constructed by the mining mafia to lift stone sand material near Nagri. The administration also closed all the roads leading to the mining site. Fearing large-scale river bank erosion, villagers had complained of the uncontrolled mining in the area.
The Tribune on Aug 10, 2016 reported that the Kangra police had registered about 1,000 cases against illegal miners and challaned 70,000 vehicles involved in illegal mining in the district in the past six months. The number of cases registered suggested that the police efforts were commendable, but it also showed that the actions were too inadequate to deter the illegal miners. The State Govt on Sept 10, 2016 issued fresh instructions to all the Deputy Commissioners (DCs) to convene monthly meetings of all the concerned officers to review the action taken by them against illegal mining.
On September 11, 2016, with a view to ensure easy availability of construction materials to people and check illegal mining, the Himachal Industries Department issued guidelines to make mining sites’ auction transparent. As per the guidelines no mining lease were to be granted upto 100, 25 and 10 meters from the edge of national highway, state highways and village roads respectively. The guidelines also prohibited mining lease close to water supply, irrigation scheme and bridges. Following it, the Govt decided to hold an open auction for granting mining lease for mineral quarries. The Go`vt then auctioned 14 minor mineral quarries for Rs 3.95 crore in Hamirpur district, 13 quarries in Kangra district for Rs 2.21 crore and 20 quarries in Sirmaur district for Rs 29 crore.
On September 18, 2016 Govt entrusted Mining Officers with the responsibility of identifying routes leading to riverbeds for carrying out illegal mining activities. Acting upon this, DC Solan district directed officials of various departments to step up surveillance and check illegal mining in their respective areas.
GANGETIC AND TRANS GANGETIC PLAINS
Punjab The flying squad of Vigilance Bureau on Oct 26, 2016 arrested the General Manager of Mining Department, Hoshiarpur, for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 1.5 lakh. Many stone crusher owners had complained that the official was extorting a hefty amount from them every month for allowing miners to operate.
Haryana According to The Tribune report of Jan 31, 2016, State Govt had leased out nearly 500 ha to two private firms around the Krishnawati and Dohan rivers for gravel mining in Mahendragarh district. The location spread across 25 villages in Nangal Choudhary and local feared felling of lakhs of trees for gravel mining. Mining Department underplayed the claim but Forest Department accepted it. According report, villagers had planted about 3 lakh saplings on the community owned land within approved areas during 2002-13.
On June 23, 2016 high-level review meeting of the Mines and Geology Dept chaired by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar discussed issues pertaining to the resumption of mining and control on illegal sand mining from rivers. Govt expected ECs for two major mining blocks in Ghaggar and Yamuna rivers. In a major shift from the earlier policy, the Khattar Govt formulated a policy for the allotment of smaller blocks through e-tendering.
Meanwhile, on June 24, 2016 District Administration of Mahendragarh recommended action against Om Minerals a private firm for illegal mining of gravel along the Krishnawati river in Nangal Choudhary tehsil. As per an inquiry report the firm had caused losses amounting to several crores to the state exchequer by carrying out illegal gravel mining in collusion with officials of the Mining and Forest Departments. The report also alleged tree felling on large scale by the firm. Following this, the District Administration on July 08, 2016 imposed Section 144 in villages located along Krishnawati & Dohan rivers to check illegal mining for two months. According to The Tribune July 07, 2016 report, private mining companies reportedly caused a revenue loss to the tune of Rs 7.56 crore to the state exchequer by not paying the stamp duty for registering their lease deeds to carry out mining activities in Mahendragarh district. It was also disclosed that lease deeds were also being registered on plain papers in Bhiwani, Panchkula, Yamuna Nagar and Sonepat districts.
The State Pollution Control Board on September 21, 2016 issued closure notices to 111 stone crushers, 38 screening plants and seven mining units directing them to shut down their operation after for three months from June 1, 2016. The period come to an end on Aug 31, 2016 but no relief & extension of the same had been accorded by the NGT. On Oct 22, 2016 Sonipat administration inquired into the complaints of diversion of the Yamuna waters allegedly by two mining contractors near Tikola village in the district. A case was also registered at the Murthal police station in this regard.
Uttar Pradesh On Aug 2, 2016, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) decided to make an inquiry into illegal mining activities happening in a dozen districts along Ganga and Yamuna rivers. Many officials including the Gayatri Prajapati, the Mining Minister were allegedly involved in a multi crore mining scam. Fearing adverse results from the ongoing inquiry, the CM Akhilesh Yadav on Sept 11, 2016 sacked  its mining minister. The minister was re-inducted on Sept 25, 2016 following pressure from party president, Mulayam Singh Yadav. This happened despite the activist Nutun Thakur had petitioned UP Governor Ram Naik against Prajapati’s re-induction, citing the corruption charges against him.
Bihar A joint team of Patna and Bhojpur police on Aug 2, 2016 arrested 30 alleged criminals, seized 24 poclain machines and four boats during an operation against illegal sand mining in Maner area. According to police statement the criminals had illegally occupied acres of land in the Diara area of Maner and were engaged in illegal sand mining from Chaurasi ghat.
Jharkhand In an operation against illegal mining in Giridih, Dumri circle officer Ravindra Pandey on October 20, 2016 seized 10 tractors carrying illegal sand from different river beds falling under Nimiyaghat and Dumri police station areas of the district. Over ten illegal miners, including villagers, were also held for investigation.
West-Bengal Acting on a tip-off about illegal sand mining in Durgapur district, the SDM conducted a raid on Damodar river and seized forty six trucks loaded with illegal sand. The administration had imposed a penalty of Rs 20.7 lakh on the miners. The drivers’ of the truck managed to flee away leaving behind the trucks. The illegal practice had been causing revenue loss of lakhs on a daily basis.
Madhya Pradesh On April 18, 2016 state Government constituted a committee to identify river banks for quarrying. The state wildlife board recommended inclusion of a hydrologist and an ecologist in the panel. Illegal sand quarrying was continuing in Chambal sanctuary despite a blanket ban on mining.
Questioning his Govt response BJP MLA R.D. Prajapati on July 26, 2016 alleged that illegal sand mining activity was going on unabated on the banks of the Ken river and 800-1000 trucks ferry illegally-mined sand daily at Chandla in Chhattarpur district, close to Uttar Pradesh.
On the issue of banning sand mining in Narmada river, CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Dec 09, 2016 sought to consult experts and environmentalists before taking a decision. He further said that Government was committed to check illegal sand mining but decision to stop legal mining could not be taken in haste.
According to a report, the Government was even planning to invite Indian and international experts to study sand mining impact on Narmada river. On December 12, 2016 CM announced banning of mining in Amarkantak – the origin of Narmada River.
Facing criticism over growing attacks by sand mafia, the mineral resources department on Dec 19, 2016 planned to deploy retired army personnel in sensitive mining areas in the State. The department also decided to issue web-based electronic transit pass (ETP) in place of paper pass to the mines to ensure transparency and keep a tab on the amount of the minerals mined.
Notably, the 144-day-long ongoing Narmada Sewa Yatra spotlighted sand mining going on unabated at several places. A network of mafia was reportedly ravaging the river bed with heavy machines. Before starting online auction process under sand mining policy March 2015, the Government released a new sand mining policy to bring more areas under sand mining. After the policy, sand mining area increased from 5,206 hectares to 9,946 hectares in 2016. As per reports the state recorded 7,097 cases of illegal transportation of minerals with over 600 in the Chambal region, 407 cases of illegal mining and 392 cases of illegal storage in the year 2016.
Maharashtra Pune District Administration on January 26, 2016 confiscated machinery such as suction pipes, earth movers etc. used in illegal sand mining activities on the bank of Ujani dam. The administration destroyed 40 fibre boats and other seized material worth over Rs 1 crore on the spot to prevent their reuse. According to report, out of over 2000 reported cases of illegal sand mining most were detected around Ujani dam and on Bhima riverbed.
Similarly on March 26, 2016 the Revdanda police team raided the creek at Diwiparangi village in south-east Alibaug and caught five men red-handed while excavating sand and loading it in trucks. The police seized eight truckloads of sand, a suction pump & the boat collectively worth Rs 3.16 lakh.
On May 25, 2016, Nishant Gandhi, son of politically influential Girish Gandhi, was booked for illegally mining sand from a prohibited area of Jhudpi forest in Nagpur. The cost of sand seized was estimated at Rs 5 lakh. According to sources, illegal sand mining was happening there for over a month. Another truck was seized by the police at Kamptee during an independent action.
On September 14, 2016, the Government decided the deployment of drones across districts to check illegal extraction for the construction sector. The drones had already been deployed in Nagpur to monitor violation of sand mining leases and illegal extraction.
Following several news reports and complaints of illegal sand mining, on September 17, 2016, the District Administration Nagpur cancelled the sand mining contract of Beena ghat. Earlier also, contracts of seven sand ghats were cancelled but the action remained on paper. According report, despite cancellation of contract, sand in huge quantity was being excavated by 150 trucks without hindrance.
On September 09, 2016 Ravanwadi police arrested five persons and seized weapons from them for threatening villagers of Marartola in Bhandara district. Villagers had objected to illegal sand mining by sand mafia from Tedhva Ghat. Two days later, getting a wind of possible raid, people involved in illegal sand mining activity near the Belapur-Uran road in Navi Mumbai fled the spot much before the raid.
Following poor response to e-auction process for sand mines in three attempts, the Nashik District Administration on December 20, 2016 decided to conduct the process once again with a 10 per cent cut in estimated price. In 2014-15, the e-auction of three sand mining sites earned Rs 29.96 crore revenue, while, in 2015-16 the e-auction of four sites earned Rs 88.25 crore. As per report, in 2016 the auctioned of four sites had earned revenue of around Rs 22 crore.
In October 2016, initiating a crackdown on illegal sand miners Palghar police raided several illegal sand mining locations at Vaitarna, Khaniwade, Kanher and Chikhaldongri creeks and seized around 35 trucks loaded with sand worth over Rs 1.5 crore. In a tit-for-tat gesture after raid, the sand mafia released a “bribe rate card” which immediately went viral exposing the nexus threatening to release more names.
Replying to Central Railway Officials charges of no action against dredging and mining close to railway bridges, Thane Collector on November 30, 2016 stated that administration had registered 107 FIRs against law violators, seized 200 trucks and recovered penalty of Rs 5.25 crore in the past six months.
The Government on December 11, 2016 decided to use drone technology to check illegal sand mining in the state. Nagpur had used two drones to monitor sand mining locations earlier this year, and nabbed violators as well as recovered penalty of Rs 1.52 crore for illegal mining from them.
According reports, sand mining generated the maximum revenue in the state and the target for 2016 was set over Rs 1,200 crore. The Pune district had a target of Rs 175 crore from the mining sector, which was increased to Rs 190 crore, of that 72 per cent had been collected and department was sure to meet the target.
Earlier this year, the Comptroller Auditor General’s (CGA) audit had noted that there was extensive extraction of minerals without mining leases, and the department was unable to prevent this. The state had listed black marketing of essential commodities along with illegal excavation of sand under the Maharashtra Prevention of Dangerous Activities (MPDA) Act earlier this year, which aimed to crack down on repeated offenders.
Odisha The Odisha Space Application Centre (ORSAC) on December 06, 2016 decided to take up mapping and geo-database creation of all the rivers in the State to check rampant extraction of riverbed. The mapping would comprise all the meanders, river sand deposit areas, existing channel and sand bars. Many rivers of the State were reportedly facing a problem of illegal mining of sand from the beds which eventually alters the carrying capacity and leads to change in nature of floods and impacts thereof.
Rajasthan The State was also learnt facing difficulty in complying with the new sustainable sand mining guidelines. According to a January 25, 2016 report majority of mining areas in Rajasthan were greater than 5 hectares. The State also lacked human resource and budget for setting up district committee and procurement of I-T equipments as prescribed in the guidelines. It seemed that MoEF&CC had come out with these guidelines even without State Governments getting ready with the institutions, manpower and finances to implement them.
To curb the growing menace of illegal mining, on December 25, 2016, the Alwar police have placed CCTVs on hillocks to identify trucks passing through the area close to Haryana border. In the last five years, the police had reportedly seized around 600 tractors, JCBs and other heavy machinery used for illegal mining. On December 29, 2016 the State Government permitted auctioning of five large-scale mining blocks for 2016-17. As per report, Rs 3782.11 crore revenue was generated in 2015-16 through the process and a target of Rs 5,200 crore was set for the year 2016-17 and till Nov 2016, revenue of Rs 2,199.13 crore was collected by auctioning of mining blocks.
Gujarat On May 30, 2016 four trucks detained for illegal sand mining from Goma river near Ghoghamba in Panchmahal district on June 05 after district collector ordered a raid in the area following complaints from locals residing near the riverbank. The trucks were ferrying sand and quartz stones to different parts of the district.
On June 25, 2016 a team of Ahmedabad rural police raided a mining site at Gyaspur near the Sabarmati river and seized vehicles worth Rs 1.36 crore including 3 earth moving machines, 2 dumpers and 12 tractors with trailers. According report, the accused had already mined sand worth crores as understaffed mines and minerals department officials were afraid of taking action against the group.
In October 2016, the department of Geology and Mining also conducted massive surprise raids simultaneously in seven districts of Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Anand, Aravalli, Surendranagar, Mehsana and Sabarkantha and recovered 87,211 metric ton of sand and a penalty of Rs 70.46 lakh from 35 license holders.
Goa According to September 21, 2016 report, close to 400 permit holders were likely to be involved in extraction of sand when the new sand mining season reopened in Goa on Oct 1, 2016. The Directorate of Mining and Geology office had started accepting royalty from licensed sand mining operators for 2016-17. The forthcoming season of licensed sand mining was taking place after a gap of nearly fiver years. Permit holders were expected to be adhering to the regulatory guidelines issued in March 2016.
Andhra Pradesh On March 08, 2016 DC, Vijaywada decided to permit sand mining only at pre-designated reaches. According the DC the new State formed sand mining policy was not being undertaken in any other State in the country. CM N. Chandrababu Naidu on March 14, 2016 ordered an inquiry by the Vigilance and Enforcement Department into irregularities committed by a private company in mining of beach sand minerals in Srikakulam district.
The Government on March 17, 2016 directed district officials to register cases under Prevention of Detention Act against persons involved in illegal sand mining. The Deputy CM also asked the district collectors of 13 districts to take stringent action against illegal sand miners and owners of vehicles found engaged in such activities.
Amid allegations over misuse of the State Government’s free sand scheme, the District Administration Visakhapatnam on March 28, 2016 appointed technical assistants at all the 14 sand reaches in the district. The technical assistants were given electronic tabs to upload all the details of free sand scheme in a given website.
In Nov 2015 the CM had announced a new sand mining policy from Jan 1, 2016. The Govt handed over all 368 sand mines sand mines in the state to Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas groups (self-help groups) with 25 per cent share of the annual revenue for operations and maintenance of the mines. According report, under the existing policy, the total revenue earned was at Rs 517 crore in the last 16 months. But, the Government also received complaints from public regarding delayed and improper supply of sand.
Telangana On March 30, 2016 Telangana State Mineral Development Corp granted a mining lease over an extent of 28 ha at Veerapuram village under Duginepalli gram panchayat in Pinapaka mandal to produce 6 lakh cubic metres of sand per year from the lease. The estimated cost of the proposed project was stated to be about Rs 30 lakh.
On July 14, 2016 cracking the whip on illegal sand mining operators, KT Rama Rao Mines and Geology Minister cancelled the operations at the Gudibanda sand reach in Mahbubnagar district and also suspended two officials for their failure to control them. While monitoring sand mining in Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Nizamabad and Karimnagar, the authorities in charge found that 60,000 cubic meters of sand was mined from the Gudibanda area as opposed to the permitted 1,950 cubic meters.
Kerala According reports there was confusion over Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines 2016 as the State had already formed a district-level expert committees under the Kerala Protection of River Banks and Regulation of Removal of Sand Act, 2001 to identify the locations for river sand mining. Experts a fear that the uncertainty over which rule to follow could end up creating a situation for illegal mining to flourish in the State. In June last year, the State Government had imposed a total ban on sand mining from six rivers and imposed restrictions on mining from five rivers for a three-year period. The decision was based on the sand audit report of 11 rivers prepared in accordance with the State Act.
According to PB Nooh, Sub-Collector Ottappalam the Revenue Department in the last two years had seized 550 vehicles involved in sand mining from the Ottappalam-Shornur- Thrithala stretch of the river and 400 other vehicles had been auctioned. The fine collected from violators in the last one-and-a-half years alone was reported around Rs 1 crore. Due to tough measures, Sub-Collector claimed registration of no illegal sand-mining case in the last two months from the Ottappalam-Thrithala stretch. Contrary to administration claim, people reported of no decline in rampant mining of 209-km long river Bharathapuzha for past several years.
The ban on sand mining was lifted in most of the riverine sand-mining locations (‘kadavus’) on the Valapattanam river on May 23, 2016. The DC P. Bala Kiran instructed the secretaries of the respective local bodies to ensure that the sand mining in the kadavus comply with orders of the Government, NGT and provisions in the environmental clearance.
On June 24, 2016 the District Administration of Kannur planned to intensify the raid to curb the sand mafia in the district as mining was happening in the area despite the expiry of the permitted date of June 16, 2016. Accepting that even the police officials were not safe from the threat of the sand mafia, the DC also said that sand mafia was strong and it was difficult for the revenue officials even to check all the vehicles.
On August 01, 2016 the Kannur district police arrested four migrant labourers from UP for carrying out mining near the railway bridge across Valappattanam River. The accused were working for a cooperative society involved in illegally mining sand.
On December 17, 2016, the Kasaragod police arrested two persons found to be indulging in illegal sand-mining using forged documents. The police also took five others into custody for their suspected having association with the sand mafia groups, and hinted at arresting more persons linked with the groups.
Karnataka On March 06, 2016 Vinay Kulkarni, minister of state for Mines and Geology decided to approve no extraction of sand from allotted riverbed portions in coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) without clearance from MoEF&CC. The EC for the same had expired on January 16, 2016 and the department had sought fresh clearance from the MoEF&CC. The minister expected clearance to be granted in 20 days and till the time only traditional forms of extraction was allowed in the CRZ area.
A.B. Ibrahim, Dakshina Kannada Deputy Commissioner on March 17, 2016 warned of impounding boats found indulging in illegal sand extraction from river beds in districts along CRZ. The permission for sand extraction in CRZ area given by MoEF&CC had expired on January 16, 2016. However, there were many instances of extractors mining sand during the night and transporting it illegally.
Announcing commencement of mining activities, Dr Vishal R Deputy Commissioner Udupi district on April 23, 2016 stated that 23 sand blocks were identified in CRZ area and 11 blocks in Non-CRZ to mine about 4,03,000 metric tonn sand. The sand mining activities would be banned in May-end for two months during monsoon.
On May 10, 2016, in a major crackdown on corruption in the department, SP Sudheerkumar Reddy suspended six police personnel for allegedly being involved in the illegal sand mining along the Cauvery river in Srirangapatna taluk.
In view of the fish breeding monsoon season, sand mining was banned in Dakshina Kannada district by administration on June 07, 2016 for 60 days from June 15 to August 15, 2016. Builders of Government structures were advised to put together enough stock of sand before the ban comes into effect. Inter-district sand transportation was also banned during the period. According to one more report, due to confiscation of more than 4,400 loads of sand through drives conducted against illegal sand mining and transportation in 2015-16, construction work in Dakshina Kannada would not suffer during the ban period from June 15 to August 15, 2016.
Contrary to this, citing impact on construction activities due to shortage of sand, local politician on December 13, 2016 demanded relaxation from certain conditions laid down by the Government in the Dakshina Kannada district. According report licenses were issued to carry out sand extraction to 425 contractors on 37 conditions laid by MoEF&CC but license holders were seen violating the conditions. The administration showed inability to provide relaxation from the rules saying that a total of 1 lakh cubic metre of sand is stored for distribution, but only 9,000 cubic meter was procured by the people. Former minister Krishna J Palemar expressed concerns over the failure of Dakshina Kannada District Administration to reign in the sand mafia.
According to June 10, 2016 report the Department of Mines and Geology had collected Rs 2.19 crore in fines for illegal sand transportation and mining in the district in the year 2015-16 as well as in the first two months of this fiscal year. Majority of the fine amount Rs1.45 crore was from illegal transport of sand to neighbouring states. Additional Rs1.93 crore was collected though 1,443 cases registered in 2015-16.
The District Administration Mangalore on June 22, 2016 constituted a committee to recommend measures to be taken to reintroduce traditional sand extraction from rivers in CRZ areas. The administration also proposed use of traditional wooden boats for mining and prohibition on machinery to unload sand from boats to trucks. Surprisingly, the committee included no one from environment or local community background, but included three from miners.
While submitting its report on July 18, 2016, the study team of the House Committee on Illegal Sand Mining opined that PWD had failed in ensuring adequate sand supply to the public. Suggesting need to change the mining rules the panel also recommended to allow private agencies to mine sand by floating e-tenders. According report, of the 829 sand blocks identified, environment clearances were obtained for only 592 blocks and PWD was carrying mining only in 219 blocks.
Banning the use of machines in sand mining Dakshina Kannada District Administration on July 27, 2016 made it mandatory to carry out sand mining manually from next season onwards. A district task force committee auctioned sand bars for Rs 86 lakh and expected royalty worth Rs 1.5 crore from 25,000 truckloads of sand. As per report the administration also decided to allow sand mining in 19 CRZ and 19 in non-CRZ blocks of sand from August 15, 2016 after the monsoon ban.
On August 2016, the Ravikanthe Gowda SP, Belagavi district expressed disappointment over a raid on sand mining activities by Gokak police. The police had conducted raid and seized large quantity of illegal sand at Melavanki village but had not mentioned the detail of the case in the FIR.
Tamil Nadu On March 15, 2016 Forest officials booked 5 cops under Section 21 of the Tamil Nadu Forest Act, 1882 and produced them before a local court for mining sand illegally from Malattar River in Vellore district. This was the 10th incident of arrest and seizure of vehicles in a week from the region. The entire stretch of the Malattar River in the district protected under reverse forest area was mining affected.
In the same month, Revenue officials also confiscated 28 trucks for illegal sand mining on Poramboke land belonging to State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu at Sriperumbudur. Tamil Nadu Sand Lorry Owners Federation alleged that contractors present at the site fled the site before officials got to the spot. The union also pointed to similar violations in sites around Padappai being done by illegally appointed contractors who forge bills.
On July 25, 2016 the Devipattinam police team seized a lorry, tractor and an earthmover which were used for illicit sand quarrying in Pachaiyar river at Desamanickam. The police also arrested three persons during two surprise raids conducted in the Ramanathapuram district. However, their associates, including one Vellapandi from Moontradaippu, escaped. The District Administration Tirunelveli on August 12, 2016 during a surprise inspection seized four vehicles, an earthmover involved in beach sand mining in district. The seizure came at a time when there had been complaints of illegal beach sand mining in the district for its rich mineral content.
On December 19, 2016 MDMK chief Vaiko condemned the attack on activist Mukilan who protested against sand mining in Cauvery in Karur. Coordinator of Tamil Nadu Environmental Protection Movement Mukilan and six of his associates were allegedly attacked by a group of 11 people near Vaangal area in Karur on December 13, for protesting against the proposed sand quarry in Vaangal. The police on December 16, 2016 filed a case against 11 persons including T. Manivel of Vangal on the charge of attacking Mukilan.
On December 10, 2016, sand mining in the Coleroon and Cauvery rivers in Tiruchi region remained suspended following rumours of Income Tax raids at the quarries. There were more than 15 sand quarries in Cauvery and Coleroon rivers in the Tiruchi region of the River Conservation Division of the Public Works Department.
Summary Based on the report, we can see number of actions taken by respective authorities at State and Centre level related to river sand extraction. The Central Govt introduced Sustainable Sand Mining Guidelines 2016 and stressed on use of technology to monitor controlled river sand mining. It also conducted workshop aiming at effective implementation of the guidelines apart from prescribing use of alternatives to sand.
Following the steps many State Govts like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan started e-auctioning of mining leases and using of drones to check illegal mining activities. Other technologies like use of Bar-code, insertion of GPS, creation of geo database, submission of digital maps of proposed areas also made some headway to dispel the gloomy situation surrounding the hidden world of sand mining business.
It also appeared that apart from Himachal, States in South India like Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were more active in initiating some action. The states in Central India like Maharashtra and Gujarat also took some action in comparison with States in Gangetic plains. However, none of the states can be seen to be taken effective, sustained action against sand mining, may be with the exception of Kerala.
The most abysmal condition seemed to prevail in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh followed by Uttarakhand and Haryana, the first two being the most illegal mining infested states. Strangely there was no news report on any actions taken by Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh Governments to curb illegal river sand mining. The controversy around Mining Minister UP had created doubts over State Government intentions of bringing the culprits to justice. Similarly, the ongoing Narmada Sewa Yatra exposed the Government’s Narmada conservation claim. The inquiry report of damage done by gravel mining in Krishanwati river area, Haryana establish obvious administration-mafia links.
We also heard of confusion arising in Kerala and Rajasthan States due to new sand mining policy introduced by the Central Government. There were also number of news reports suggesting that many State Governments were more interested in revenue generation rather than controlling the unscientific abstraction of natural resource.
Broadly, despite new mining policy and introduction of several I-T technologies, there was hardly any change in scenario and the unscientific river sand mining seemed to continue suggesting business as usual situation. Many States still lack infrastructural and basic facilities to go for application of I-T technologies, similarly States seemed not following constitution of DEIAA committee and ignoring district survey reports mandatory before issuing mining leases. Also the district committees formed in many States to regulate sand mining zones continuously appeared neglecting the appointment of independent environmental experts.
One can also see that there is no lack of rules and regulations but the lack of effective implementation of respective laws is root cause of this illegal river sand mining business. Finally, one hopes that all these shortcomings observed and experienced in 2016 make the respective Governments learn their lessons and take correctives measures to implement sustainable mining practices and bring justice to our mining ravaged rivers in the Year 2017, though there is no basis for such a hope considering our experience so far!
Composed by Bhim Singh Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org) SANDRP
To read third part of the series, kindly visit: River Sand Mining in India in 2016-III- Judicial Interventions