New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday reluctantly admitted before the National Green Tribunal that illegal sand mining was going on in the state and not even a single environmental clearance granted for it in Gautam Budh Nagar district.
"We (UP government) have not caught anyone till now. It`s there Lordship. Yes it (illegal sand mining) is going on," the counsel, appearing for Uttar Pradesh government and its Chief Secretary, said.
A five-member bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar directed the Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police of Gautam Budh Nagar to personally appear before it on August 29 to show cause why appropriate action be not taken against them for not checking illegal sand mining.
"From the documents before us, it is evidently clear that indiscriminate sand mining is going on in Gautam Budh Nagar in Noida. We would have expected the Deputy Commissioner and SP to comply with the Tribunal`s August 5 order and the Supreme Court`s earlier order but both have miserably failed.
"Let they personally appear before us on the next date of hearing i.e. August 29," the bench said.
After an hour-long hearing, the bench also granted liberty to any advocate of the tribunal or any public person to bring out the names of people carrying out illegal mining.
At the beginning, the counsel had denied the allegations of illegal mining saying "there is no illegal sand mining in the state after the tribunal`s August 5 order".
Miffed at the counsel persistently denying the allegations, the bench cited recent media reports and wanted to know from the woman advocate whether those reports were incorrect or irresponsible.
At this point, the counsel accepted and made a statement that there is illegal sand mining going on in the state without any clearance.
Meanwhile, the tribunal also banned beach sand mineral mining in Tamil Nadu and Kerala after senior advocate Raj Panjwani, appearing for NGT Bar Association which had filed the petition, apprised it about unauthorised mining on the beaches of the two states.
The tribunal also directed the chief secretaries of Tamil Nadu and Kerala to file personal affidavits on August 29 on the averments.
The bench also directed the counsel to ask SEIAA`s deputy director, who was present during the hearing, whether news reports regarding sand mining in Uttar Pradesh were incorrect.
"No EC had been granted in entire Gautam Budh Nagar. What action has been taken? Did you catch a single person in the area? Are you also a party to it," it asked.
Advocate Panjwani, assisted by advocate Ritwick Dutta, submitted that despite the apex court`s 2012 order, the states have failed to check illegal mining.
In a February 2012 order, the apex court had taken note of adverse effects of sand mining and held that any person carrying on sand mining on land under five hectares would need clearance from Ministry of Environment and Forests or SEIAA.
The NGT directed all the states to file their affidavits as to what steps they have taken or if they have framed any rules in pursuance of the SC order.
"Besides the above, every state will submit as to how many persons have been granted permission for carrying out sand mining. What is the role played by pollution control board of the state in this regard," it said, also asking them to mention the number of cases of illegal mining registered by them and action taken against the offenders.
"All the states and MoEF will inform on the next date which experts can be included in the committee to be formed to look into the issues of illegal sand mining," it said.
"Bring before us the names of major operators of mining which is being carried out in Gautam Budh Nagar," the tribunal said and asked the UP counsel to give details till August 16.
Earlier, the tribunal had restrained sand mining without any licence or environmental clearance from river beds across the country on the plea alleging such activities were going on in UP with the "wilful connivance" of its state machinery.
The bench had said its order would be applicable across the nation as the petition raises substantial environmental issues.
The petition has alleged that recently a man who had raised his voice against the "powerful sand mafia" had been killed in his home by few goons in broad daylight.
In its petition, the association contended that "rampant illegal sand mining in the river beds of Yamuna, Ganga, Hindon, among others, without prior environmental clearance or in violation of the EC is being carried out and the same is affecting the integrity of the concerned river systems and flood plains".