New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal on Monday banned mining or removal of sand from river beds across the country without an environmental clearance amid the uproar over suspension of an IAS officer who had cracked down on sand mafia in Uttar Pradesh.
In its order, the Tribunal noted that the loss caused to the state exchequer due to illegal sand mining may run into lakhs of crores of rupees.
The order was given on a plea alleging that such activities were going on in UP with the "wilful connivance" of its state machinery.
Widening the ambit of the plea, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said its order would be applicable across the nation as the petition raised substantial environmental issues.
Initially, the bench banned illegal sand mining on the beds and banks of rivers Yamuna, Ganga, Hindon, Chambal, Gomti, amongst others, but later modified its order saying the issue of illegally removing sand has nationwide implications.
The bench said the clearance has to be obtained from the Ministry of Environment and Forests(MoEF) or State Environment Impact Assessment Authority(SEIAA).
"We restrain any person, company, authority to carry out any mining activity or removal of sand, from river beds anywhere in the country without obtaining Environmental Clearance from MoEF/SEIAA and license from the competent authorities," the bench said while issuing notices to all respondents seeking their response by August 14.
The Tribunal also directed all the mining officers and police officers concerned of all the states to ensure compliance of its orders, on the plea filed by the National Green Tribunal Bar Association.
The petition alleged that those who have opposed such sand mining, including field level officers, like suspended SDM Durga Sakhti Nagpal, have been victimised which is also apparent from various news reports.
Nagpal, the 28-year-old SDM of Gautam Budh Nagar who led the crackdown on sand mining mafia in her district, was suspended on July 27 ostensibly for ordering demolition of a wall of a under-construction mosque allegedly without following the due process. Nagpal, who belongs to the UP cadre, was chargesheeted yesterday.
Senior advocate Raj Panjwani assisted by advocate Ritwick Dutta, appearing for the association, contended that "rampant" illegal mining and transport of lakhs of tonnes of sand is being carried on every year and is causing a loss of lakhs of crores of rupees to the state exchequer.