The Key message that came through from all the panelists and North India Sand mining presentation was that if we are to see any improvement in the murky state of sand mining that is a threat to everyone today, then we urgently need key role for the local communities and civil society in sand mining governance. The second loud & clear message was that the Supreme Order of 2012 on the need for environmental appraisal and clearance of sand mining leases stands violated in letter and spirit by the Union Government. These messages also provide us the way forward.
India Rivers Week 2020[i] is focused on the theme “Is Sand Mining Killing Our Rivers” this year. As part of this event, four zonal dialogues on sand mining status are being organised in North, South, West and East zones in that chronological order, to be followed by a National event on Nov 28, 2020. The introductory theme note[ii] on this issue provides further details.
The first dialogue in this series was successfully conducted on October 31, 2020 by moderators Shri Manoj Misra and Parineeta Dandekar. Each zonal meeting are to begin with presentation of a zonal report on sand mining, to be followed by a panel discussion that will include panelists representing different perspectives, including governance perspective, legal perspective, media perspective, ecological perspective, civil society/ community perspective and industry perspective. All these perspectives were well represented in the North Zone Dialogue, except industry perspective, which could not be included in spite of our best efforts including contacting the CREDAI (Confederation of the Real Estate Developers’ Association of India)
The report “North India Sand Mining Overview” was prepared by SANDRP and presented by Bhim Singh Rawat of SANDRP. For full report from SANDRP on North India Sand Mining, see here. Some key messages of North Zone Report[iii] presentation:
- Most rivers of North India are affected by sand mining, including Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Tawi, Arin and Papchan of Jammu & Kashmir; Beas, Chaki, Swan, Giri, Bata, Yamuna, Sutlej, Tons, Pabbar, Neugal, Binwa, Sainj, Kansa, Suketi of Himachal Pradesh; Gola, Nandaur, Ganga, Kosi, Dabka, Yamuna, Khoh, Asan, Alaknanda, Pindar, Saryu, Sharda of Uttarakhand; Satuj, Beas, Swan, Ghaggar of Punjab; Yamuna, Ghaggar, Somb, Markanda, Tangri of Haryana and Ganga, Yamuna, Hindon, Chambal, Betwa, Ken, Sone of Uttar Pradesh.
- The situation of river sand mining in North Zone provides a very murky scene with illegal sand mining, corruption, Nexus between politicians-officials-sand miners being rampant, and even numerous cases of violence and death.
- There are very few bright spots here, one of the most notable one being the episode involving Durga Shakti Nagpal in 2013. More about it below. There are some more such encouraging stories of resistance including the presentation here by Shri Kiran Pal Rana, a farmer of Yamuna Nagar district in Haryana, who is also a petitioner in NGT. In Bundelkhand, women doing Jal Satyagaraha to protest against illegal mining is another bright point.
For full North Zone presentation by SANDRP see here.
The presentation was very well received and appreciated by a number of participants, as it clear from what Durga Shakti Nagpal said[iv] about it soon after the presentation: “My compliments to you for vary incisive, and a very comprehensive presentation that you enlightened us with today.”
The Water Conflicts Forum tweeted about the North Zone presentation:
The central message of the courageous and bold Durga Shakti Nagpal herself was that the local community/ civil society needs to have the role of providing monitoring and feedback to the official agency: “So if we do this, the whole sector will come under our control.” She began by complementing India Rivers Week and all the constituencies for taking up such an important issue for these dialogues.
For full transcript of what Durga Shakti Nagpal spoke at the North Zone Dialogue, see the link:
Kiran Pal Rana, a farmer and affected person by the sand mining in Yamuna near his village on the banks of Yamuna river in Yamunanagar district was the second panel member to speak. The most notable aspect of what Rana spoke was how the village, river, the biodiversity, air and even crops in their village have changed and suffered due to the rampant illegal sand mining in their village. He has filed a petition in the National Green Tribunal, which will come up for further hearing later this month.
For full presentation by Shri Kiran Pal Rana, see here.
IRF tweeted about his presentation:
Dr Syed A Hussain, a recently retired scientist from the Wildlife Institute of India of MoEF was the next speaker. Dr Hussain highlighted how the rivers and both aquatic and biodiversity in North India are suffering due to sand mining. He said: “Sand mining in most of the North Indian rivers is unregulated and rampant. Combined with low flow and pollution, the rivers are under severe pressure. Even though there exist strong guidelines for sustainable mining and monitoring of sites, there is little action on the ground. With increasing demand on River bed materials concerted efforts and conservation planning is required involving all stakeholders for river conservation.”
Some of the key recommendations Dr Hussain made included: “With growing demand sand mining does not seem to be a minor mineral extraction affair any more. Strict enforcement of existing guidelines may reduce the impact of mining but monitoring mechanism on ground needs reinforcement. It is high time to identify large sand mining sites along the rivers on the basis scientific study based on the rate of aggregation and degradation rate as done by IIT, Kanpur for the Ganga at the Haridwar stretch. Ecological sensitive and biodiversity hotspots in all rivers need to be identified and mining needs to be avoided. Creating village level institutions involving relevant stakeholders will develop stake of the local communities in conserving river ecosystems.”
For full presentation made by Dr S A Hussain, see here.
A notable tweet about Dr Hussain’s presentation:
Parul Gupta, a lawyer, our next speaker spoke with remarkable clarity and said: “There are so many loopholes in policy and laws, the question of implementation is secondary. The letter and spirit of the Supreme Court’s 2012 Deepak Kumar judgment stands violated by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. For example, the Supreme Court asked for need for environment clearance for ALL mining leases including for those leases for less than 5 ha.”
Parul emphasised: “That stipulation meant there has to be Environment and Impact Assessment and public consultation, but neither of these are included in the policy and law, nor are they implemented. What is the use of EC without EIA and PH? This was challenged in NGT, but NGT did not deal with it properly. There is need to challenge these aspects in the Supreme Court.”
A notable tweet about what lawyer Parul Gupta said at the NZ Dialogue:
The final panel member, Athar Parvaiz is a journalist from Jammu & Kashmir, who has extensively written on sand mining. Speaking from cold Kashmir, where his house did not have access to electricity since the previous night, Parvaiz highlighted: “sand mining in Kashmir till recently used to happen in traditional way, but that has changed drastically in last year or so including the NGT guidelines, and now there are serious challenges not only for the traditional sand miners, but all those who are dependent on the rivers. The government has now decided to go for online auctions and bidding is also now open for miners from outside the state. The extent of the mining lease has also been expanded much more. We now have almost 250 sand mining blocks each up for bidding from Kashmir and also from Jammu, total being over 550. But no district replenishment studies have been prepared in the district. In stead the Geology and Mining dept made the reports for the districts. That department is basically interested in generating maximum revenue.”
Mr Parvaiz revealed: “Since environmental clearances were not coming, the government came up with a strange order saying that the sand mining permits given BEFORE the NGT guidelines will remain valid. Even the limited environmental clearances that have come in two districts are without expert or scientific inputs. The flood disasters are likely to increase in days to come, as also impact on fisheries and aquatic life. Larger political discourse on ground is also not allowing proper debate on this issue.”
IRF tweet on what Athar Parvaiz spoke:
Going Forward The North Zone Dialogue of IRW 2020 on the theme “Is Sand Mining Killing our Rivers” on Oct 31, 2020 started with a loud answer YES to the question in this theme. However, as hoped, the dialogue also threw up a number of recommendations for way forward. We hope that by the end of the National Dialogue we will have a good set of conclusions and recommendations that will help us improve the state of affairs in sand mining governance in India. For that to happen, however, we will need much greater participation from all concerned in this dialogue. We are hopeful that will happen! We are looking forward to active participation of all concerned in this dialogue.
To join the South, West, East and National Dialogues, register: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfrgNr6Tb5BUbbmrX9BGI8xwXrhBQGsfRH9hK-paCariGyMQg/viewform
[i] For more information on IRW 2020: https://indiariversforum.org/indiariversweek2020/
[ii] Intro theme note: https://indiariversforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/introductory-note-on-irw-2020.pdf
[iii] NZ report: https://indiariversforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/irw2020_northindiasandminingoverview_sandrp_oct20.pdf
[iv] For full verbatim account of what Durga Shakti Nagpal spoke at the Dialogue including the question answer session, see: https://sandrp.in/2020/11/04/durga-shakti-nagpal-at-india-rivers-week-2020-civil-society-have-important-role-to-play-in-sand-mining-governance/