Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar announced the issue of notification for the new sustainable sand mining policy. He noted that the move was a major reform which would take care of both the development needs and the environmental concerns. Under the new policy, the states and local authorities have been advised by the Centre to use technology like android application (App), GPS and unique bar-coding system to track the vehicles of illegal miners and those who indulge in exploiting the natural resources beyond permissible limit.
News reports noted that the policy has provisions of strict monitoring of ongoing sand mining activities and crackdown against illegal operation that has reportedly been rampant in many states. The provisions include penalty against the illegal miners which may include confiscation of vehicles carrying illegally mined sand, recovering huge amount (five to ten times of the market value of the seized minerals) and seizures of all the equipments or machineries involved in mining in non-leased areas.
Guidelines under the new policy provide criteria for sustainable sand mining (both in-stream and off-channel extraction), giving detailed parameters which can be used by the state and central agencies for issuing mining lease for smaller and bigger tracts, respectively, keeping in mind the ecological concerns of a particular area.Besides suggesting many dos and don’ts for the authorities who grant lease to miners, the environment ministry’s notification has also created an exemption list where certain categories of users may be allowed sand mining keeping in view maintenance of infrastructure, abatement of disasters and property rights. Extraction of ordinary clay or sand manually by potters and earthen tile makers, removal of sand deposited on agricultural field after flood by farmers and dredging and de-silting of dam, reservoirs, barrage and canals are kept under the ‘exempt’ categories in the new policy.
The ball, literally, is in the state governments’ court. If they are not serious, these guidelines have no real meaning.