NEW DELHI: To curb illegal sand mining, the Environment Ministry has decided to make it mandatory to take environment clearance (EC) for sand and gravel mining below ive hectares from a district level authority.
The ministry has framed new guidelines for sustainable sand mining following the Supreme Court order, which said no mining lease or renewal be done without environment clearance irrespective of the size.
Currently, green nod is not required for sand mining below five hectares. There has been tendency to break the leases into small size so that to avoid EC. As a result, illegal sand mining has become rampant in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Chhattisgarh affecting the environment.
“The ministry has framed new guidelines on sand and gravel mining. It is in the process of issuing a gazette notification in this regard soon,” sources said.
As per the new guidelines, the appraisal and grant of EC for minor minerals including sand and gravel mining lease area up to five hectares will be done by the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA), headed by district collector/district magistrate.
The DEIAA will be responsible for proper and sustainable management of sand mining in the district. The authority will be responsible for designating the area/stretch in river suitable for mining in the district and also identify areas prohibited for sand mining.
Sources said, “If every district collector is given power to give environment clearance for sand mining with proper safeguards, illegal mining will gradually come down.”
The district authority will ensure clear demarcation of mining site, its documentation, and ensuring that no mining takes place without environment impact assessment (EIA), environment management plan and EC of the mining site.
The four-member DEIAA should meet atleast once a month and will take decision on granting environment clearance based on the recommendations of the District Level Expert Appraisal Committee (CEAC), as per the norms.
In case, the mine lease area is more than five hectares but less than 50 hectares, the EC will be granted by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) based on the recommendation of State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC). The EC for mine lease area of above 50 hectares will be given by the Environment Ministry.
The ministry has also make it mandatory to get EC for sand mining in cluster. DEIAA will grant green nod for cluster of mine leases of less than 5 hectares.
SEIAA will give EC for cluster of mine leases of less than 50 hectares, while the ministry will give clearance for the cluster of mine lease size more than 50 hectares. Among other norms, the ministry has proposed monitoring EC conditions and enforcement of environment management plan will be ensured by the district collector and the State Pollution Control Board irrespective of the mine area.
However, the ministry has exempted from requirement of EC for extraction of ordinary clay or sand manually by potters, earthen tile makers and removal of sand deposited on farm field after flood by owner farmers.
The guidelines also specified that no EC will be given for a mining lease located in 200-500 meter of bridge, 200 meter upstream and downstream of water supply/irrigation scheme, 100
meters from the edge of national highway and railway line, 60 meters from reservoir, can or building, 25 meter from edge of state highway and 10 meters from edge of other roads except on special exemption by the sub-division level joint inspection committee.
The EC will not be given for mine lease where mining can cause danger to site of flood protection works, places of religious, historical and archaeological importance.
To ensure reclamation of mined out area, the ministry has proposed that EC holder should undertake phased restoration, reclamation and rehabilitation of land affected by mining and complete the work before abandonment of mine.
For sustainable mining practises, the ministry has said the depth of mining in river-bed should not exceed three meter or water level, whichever is less. In hilly areas, the depth be preferably restricted to one meter.
In river flood plain mining, a buffer of 3 meter be left from the river bank for mining, it said and added that no river sand mining will be allowed in rainy season (July- September).
To maintain safety and stability of river banks, 3 meter or 10 per cent of the width of river whichever is less will be left intact as no mining zone.
In India, the main sources of sand are — riverbed and flood plain, lakes and reservoirs, agricultural fields, coastal and marine sand and palaeo-channels in Rajasthan.