Curb on sand mining to hit infrastructure projects

Curb on sand mining to hit infrastructure projectsA committee constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests has found evidence of rampant, unscientific and illegal mining of sand at various locations in Gautam Budh Nagar district along the river Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh.

The three-member committee was constituted on August 6th, 2013, to look into the adverse environmental impact of illegal sand mining in the area. On August 7th, 2013, the members of the committee along with three mining officials of the state government and the Divisional Forest Officer, Gautam Budh Nagar Forest Department, visited sites along the river Yamuna and Hindon namely Hindon Bridge near Kisan Chowk, Yamuna Bridge (Zuppa village) on Hamidpur – Palval Road, Jewar, Mamnathal village (confluence of river Yamuna and Hindon), Gaddi – Samastipur village, Kundli village, Raipur Khadar and Yakutpur.

During the visit, members of the committee observed that at most of the locations illegal mining was going on in violation of environmental regulations, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, and the directions given by the Supreme Court, the High Court of Allahabad and the National Green Tribunal in this regard.

In February last year, the Supreme Court had directed that leases of minor mineral including their renewal for an area of less than five ha be granted by states/UTs only after getting environmental clearance from the MoEF. In order to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court order, a circular was subsequently issued by the MoEF on May 18th, 2012, stating that all mining projects of minor minerals including their renewal, irrespective of the size of the lease, would require prior environment clearance. Mining projects with lease area up to less than 50 ha including projects of minor mineral with lease area less than 5 ha would be treated as category ‘B’ as defined in the Environment Impact Assessment notification, 2006, and considered by the respective State Environment Impact Assessment Authority notified by MoEF following the procedure prescribed under EIA notification, 2006, the circular said.

The High Court of Allahabad had through an order dated April 29th, 2011, directed that in respect of mining leases whose period expired after coming into force of the EIA notification dated September 14th, 2006, as also in respect of new mining leases granted subsequent to September 14th, 2006, it was mandatory to obtain environmental clearance under the EIA notification, 2006.  The state government was also required to ensure that as on July1st, 2011, no person anywhere in the state carried out any mining activity of minor minerals including sand/silica based on mining leases that did not have environmental clearance under the EIA notification, 2006. The state government issued a circular on June 29th, 2011, for compliance with the directions.

More recently, the NGT had passed an order on August 5th, 2013, that restrains carrying out any mining activity or removal of sand from river beds anywhere in the country without obtaining environmental clearance from the MoEF/SEIAA and license from competent authorities.

The restriction imposed on mining of sand is bound to have a significant impact on infrastructure projects.

“In road projects, sand is required in case of construction of structures and leveling the ground,” a source associated with the highway sector told Projectmonitor.

“The restriction imposed on mining of sand would result in escalation in the cost of projects and also delay implementation. However, as compared to the real estate sector, the impact on the road sector is not going to be that severe,” he added.

According to the Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India, the recent order by the NGT would cause delays in project completion and lead to considerable increase in cost. The apex body for private real estate developers claims that sand would have to be imported from countries such as Pakistan and Cambodia to meet the shortfall in supply.

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