National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the state government to form a task force and a high-power committee to monitor sand mining activities in lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands. The order was passed on September 2 after hearing a petition filed by North Karnataka-based environmental activist Dr Sarvabhouma Bagali.
The petitioner alleged that miners are carrying out sand mining in waterbodies located in Raichur and Vijayapura districts in the guise of dredging and maintenance of lakes and sought appropriate action from NGT. The petition was filed in 2020, following which NGT formed a joint committee to look into the matter. The committee submitted a report saying mining was done after obtaining environment clearance and there were no violations.
However, after inspecting two streams where mining was being done, the committee made a slew of recommendations to avoid violations. It should also be noted that the committee pointed out that the competent authority had levied fines on miners for certain violations committed during the mining process.
NGT, after analysing the report and hearing the petitioner, passed an order saying no sand mining should be done in lakes, ponds, waterbodies and wetlands on the false pretext of desilting and dredging, which should be done strictly as per the Union government’s sustainable sand mining management guidelines, 2016 and enforcement and monitoring guidelines of sand mining, 2020 and as per the directions issued by the principal bench of NGT.
Meanwhile, to strictly monitor sand mining activities in waterbodies across the state, NGT has directed the government to form a task force. The order stated: “Karnataka is directed to form a task force to monitor these activities in each district and whenever violations are found, they are directed to take appropriate action in accordance with law, including imposition of environmental compensation for the violations committed…”
NGT has also specifically directed the chief secretary to constitute a special team headed by principal secretary (ecology and environment), department of forests, environment and ecology. The team will have members from pollution board, minor irrigation department, Karnataka State Wetland Authority, State Environment Impact Assessment Authority and department of mines textiles and small scale industries to ensure strict implementation of sand-mining regulation.
The tribunal has directed the chief secretary to periodically monitor the directions of this high-power committee. It said for sand mining related to community purposes, there must be some regulation to obtain permission from the authorities concerned and the said licence should specify the area and quantify the sand to be removed and methodology adopted for the same.