Sand Mining

Riverbed Mining India 2021 Overview: Govts’ Changing Policies to Mine Revenues

(Feature image showing brazen rule violations in legally approved sand (morang) mining site along river Ken at Kanwara, Banda. Source: Ashish Sagar Dixit.)

This second part of riverbed sand mining overview 2021 by SANDRP highlights relevant reports from ten different states where governments have taken new policy, administrative decisions. The first part presenting prevailing riverbed mining scenario over past one year can be seen here. The third and final part of this series would cover the key judicial interventions.    

1. Madhya Pradesh Honest woman officer gets transferred The transfer of Shradha Pandre SDO forest department from Morena to Umaria within 3 months of her joining, sparked protest in the district as the locals called it an injustice with an honest officer and praised her effort for curbing the illegal sand mining menace under her division in Chambal Wildlife Sanctuary. Pandre’s transfer order was issued 3 days after she seized illegally mined sand from a construction site of a woman police station and the government’s pond in Morena.

“On the complaint of Pandre, an FIR was registered against the sub-divisional officer and sub-engineer of Police Housing Board and 2 contractors for using illegal sand for the construction of the police station. In a matter of using illegally mined sand for construction of a wall of the pond, police are investigating,” said Rai Singh Narwariya, additional superintendent of police, Morena, adding that no FIR has been lodged.

Pandre was attacked by the mining mafia at least 11 times and registered the complaint at a different police station. Pandre seized more than 80 tractor-trolleys and trucks laden with illegally mined sand worth lakhs of rupees. Despite repeated attempts, Pandre couldn’t be contacted. On Facebook, she had posted, “The transfer is a normal practice for me as whenever I took a tough action against the mafia, I had to face this. Earlier too, I was transferred for the same reason.”  (15 July 2021)

Honest Forest Ranger gets transferredThe forest department transferred the deputy forest ranger who filed a criminal complaint against the state tourism minister, Usha Thakur. The officer, Ram Suresh Babu, in his complaint to the police on Jan 12, 2021 had alleged that Usha Thakur and her supporters had forcibly taken away a heavy-duty earth extraction JCB machine and a tractor-trolley on Jan 11 night that were seized during illegal stone and soil mining in a reserved forest area. His complaint was not registered by the police but the forest minister was forced to constitute a high-level inquiry headed by a Principal Chief Conservator of Forest level officer as the opposition raised the issue. The latest action of the forest department came before the completion of the high-level inquiry. (19 Jan 2021)

No action on Minister’s complaint Kamal Patel, the agriculture minister of the state, spotted illegal sand mining in Narmada river in Narshinghpur district. He subsequently wrote to the collector Jabalpur for immediate action. However, the mining was not stopped. Exposting his own government, the minister said he had similar videos from other areas along the river.  (19 Feb. 2021)

Screenshot of multi media Hindi report dated Dec. 31, 2021 showing large scale illegal, instream mining happening at Rajghat in Muraina.

Govt allows desilting, excavation of sand from 4 dams After Kerala and Maharashtra, MP is third state attempting to start desilting of dams. In the Cabinet meeting held on July 20 2021, the state government decided to issue tenders for desilting and excavation of sand from Bansagar in Shahdol, Tawa in Itarsi, Bargi in Jabalpur, and Indira Sagar Dam in Khandwa, said home minister Narottam Mishra.

However, experts feel that desilting is an economically unviable proposition and in the absence of proper guidelines, it could damage the structure of dams. Experts also ask how thousands of tonnes of silt will be transported to different places as the state government aims to provide it to farmers for free. Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator, SANDRP said, “Desilting is not a new process but it was not adopted widely as it is not economically viable. Even farmers have to use the silt in a scientific way to make the land fertile. They may have to bear the extra cost.”

He added, “Desilting will increase the capacity of the dam but excavation of sand can damage the structure of dam too. In recent years, we saw that unsustainable sand mining damaged the aqueduct of Orsang river, a tributary of Narmada, in Gujarat. A similar, incident was reported from Maharashtra where a bridge collapsed due to sand mining. In MP, we know that illegal sand mining is rampant.” The state government earned more than ₹500 crore in revenue from the sand mining in 2020.  (20 July 2021)

Govt on January 05, 2021, issued the amendments in Sand (Mining, Transportation, Storage and Trading) Rules, 2019.  (21 Jan. 2021)

2. Bihar Action on corrupt officials The Economic Offences Unit (EOU) began preliminary inquiry against 42 government officers including the 2 IPS officers. Sources said, EOU’s inquiry report on rampant illegal sand mining had named these officers from Patna, Bhojpur, Saran, Aurangabad, Rohtas and Kaimur.  (18 July 2021)

4 deputy superintendents of police (DSPs) in various districts were removed from their posts on July 15 2021 and directed to report to the state police headquarters reportedly as part of the ongoing crackdown on the nexus between the police and sand mafia.  (15 July 2021)

2 Indian Police Service officers, 4 DSP rank officers besides four Bihar Administrative Service officers were among 17 officials suspended on July 27 2021 for aiding sand mafias & abetting illegal mining in Sone & Ganga rivers in Patna, Bhojpur, Aurangabad & Rohtas districts. A motor vehicle inspector along with 6 officers of M&G department were also reportedly suspended.  (27 July 2021)

M&G department principal secretary Harjot Kaur had written to DGP S K Singhal on May 16 2021 for strict action against the police personnel who were helping the mafia in illegal sand mining and its transportation. Videos had gone viral a few days back showing police vehicles escorting trucks overloaded with illegally mined sand. The secretary pointed out in the letter that illegal mining, storage and transportation of the sand is not possible from the bordering areas of districts like Patna, Bhojpur, Saran, Aurangabad and Rohtas without the connivance of the police personnel concerned.  (19 April 2021)

SET BACK? The M&G department gave responsibility to a “tainted officer” to issue tender of sand mining in 8 districts. The notification was issued by Harjot Kaur Banhara, Principal Secretary of the M&G Ministry and the responsibility was given to Surendra Prasad Sinha. Sinha, along with 4 other officials were removed from their respective posts in July 2021 after the Economic Offence Wing found them guilty of earning disproportionate assets.  (21 Nov. 2021)

Bihar: Other Stories Govt amends mine rules The government amended the mining rules to provide for levy of heavy fines following seizure of vehicles involved in illegal sand mining, which has shown no sign of abating, leading to environmental hazard and revenue losses. Under the new rules, trucks ferrying illegally mined sand will be released on payment of ₹4 lakhs in fine and tractors for ₹25,000. This will be in addition to the penalty imposed on the seized sand.

Attempts to regulate sand mining trade since 2016 failed spectacularly despite formation of a new policy and attempt to cancel mining lease of 25 companies owned by powerful people, who were reportedly believed to operate in connivance with politicians, police and officials of M&G department. Patna, Saran, Bhojpur, Aurangabad, Kaimur and Rohtas are some of the worst-affected districts. Sand in Bihar is being sold for ₹30,000 to ₹35,000 per truck load.  (03 July 2021)

The state government incurs an average annual loss of up to Rs 700 crore due to illegal sand mining, M&G department Minister Janak Ram said. As per the details available on the official website of the M&G department, sand mining is the biggest source of revenue for the state government generating Rs 428.06 crore revenue in 2015-2016 and Rs 457.65 crore in 2016-2017. This share of revenue from the sand mining was a little less than 50% of the total revenue of Rs 971 crore generated from all sources by the department in 2015-16 and Rs 994.1 crore in 2016-17.  (18 July 2021)

On Oct. 1, government started auctioning of ghats (river banks) for sand mining in 8 more districts after the state cabinet nod to the mines department’s proposal, officials said. The government also decided to extend the lease of ghats of various rivers for sand mining in another 8 districts for a period of 6 months (from Oct 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022) on the deposit of 50% extra of the previously settled lease amount.  (02 Oct. 2021)

The state cabinet on Oct.1 2021 approved resumption of sand mining activities in 16 districts. The settlement in Patna, Bhojpur, Saran, Rohtas, Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui and Lakhisarai districts was to be done afresh through open bidding.  (02 Oct. 2021)

July 26, 2021 Dainik Bhaskar report showing illegal sand mining at massive scale happening under politicians-admin-mafia nexus in Sone river in night hours amid ban during monsoon months.

The state road construction department on March 10, 2021 issued an order banning sand mining around bridges 500 metres up and downstream. Amrit Lal Meena, additional chief secretary of the department, said mining not only diverted the water flow, it also threatened the foundation of bridges.

Another senior official of the department admitted that the foundation of some bridges were damaged by illegal sand mining.  Most complaints were reported in rivers flowing in south Bihar, including Falgu, Panchane, Sakri, Sone, Punpun, Badua, Chanan and Goithwa.

Illegal sand mining has, over the last few years, damaged the foundation of the Koilwar railway bridge, which was built by the British in 1900. A new road bridge on river Sone near old Koilwar bridge is also under threat,” the official said. Similar reports come from several bridges on different rivers in the state.  (11 March 2021)

M&G department principal secretary Harjot Kaur on March 31 2021 said the revenue collected by the department on account of trade and mining of sand done by the old settlement holders in 13 districts at the ‘ghats’ settled earlier was only Rs 678 crore during 2020-21. In the prevailing situation, the settlement period of the old settlement holders in 13 districts was extended by 6 months up to September 30, 2021.

She said sand mining operations at the ‘ghats’ settled afresh for the purpose has been affected by the continued delay in grant of EC by the NGT. “As many as 373 sand mining ghats have already been settled with the persons/companies concerned against the settlement amount of Rs 2,677 crore, but the EC from the NGT was awaited. The department had appealed in the Supreme Court pleading for the early issuance of the EC by the NGT, but the hearing was yet not begun,” she added.  (2 April 2021)

3. Maharashtra Sangli admin proposes mining in rejuvenated river The Sangli dist administration has proposed mining of sand from 13 locations on the beds of five rivers — Agrani, Nandani, Man, Korda & Bor — which flow through rainfall-deficient tehsils. Five of the proposed sand mining sites are on the Agrani riverbed alone.

Incidentally, it took nearly 2 decades of sustained efforts by the local residents, NGOs and the administration to rejuvenate the Agrani river, which has started flowing properly once again. These efforts were also recognised by a national award recently. Now, despite opposition from local residents, the administration has moved the sand mining proposal. The tehsils along which the five rivers flow get 450-500 mm annual average rainfall — much less than the district average of 700 mm.

Lokmat, Marathi Daily Nov. 15, 2021 clip showing illegal sand mining going in broad day light in Girna river while admin remains indifferent.

As per the proposal, 43 depots will be set up at 13 locations by the sand miners. According to the survey report, the GSDA has recommended mining of 12,500 brass (1 brass equals 4,500kg) of sand from these depots. The maximum depth of mining (1.54 m) will be at the Man river site in Atpadi tehsil, while the minimum (0.7m) will be at the Korada river in the severely water deficient Jat tehsil. In case of the Agrani river, the depth of mining has been fixed at 1m at all the five locations from where 4,500 brass of sand will be mined.

Then, district collector Abhijeet Chaudhary had said that sand mining is being proposed to curb illegal sand mining. He had said that if the locals were willing to take the responsibility of stopping illegal mining, the administration will not auction the sites for sand mining. The GSDA study also claims the replenishment capacity of these rivers is more than the actual sand to be mined out.  (11 Jan. 2021)

4. Odisha 45% tehsils report illegal sand mining! Over 45 per cent of the Tehsils in Odisha report illegal sand mining. Odisha, along with Jharkhand, are the only two major states in the country that have no policy on sand. With illegal mining of major minerals in Odisha having been shrunk to a mere one case in the first half of 2020-21 from over 45 in 2017-18, courtesy of the SC guidelines post the famous Shah Committee report, illegal sand mining has emerged as a lucrative business for mining mafia in the State.

The role of the Odisha government in putting shackles on the rampant illegal mining looks lackadaisical because, replying in Odisha Assembly recently, Revenue and Disaster Minister Sudam Marandi conceded that Odisha has neither estimated the demand – consumption of sand in the State nor has fixed any price for the sale of sand.

As per the data provided by the Minister, Odisha has been a sand surplus State for a long period of time. The State has exported sand to the tune of 2.7 lakh cum during 2018-21. The total revenue earned from sand in 2019-20 had been Rs 680 crore against Rs 303 crore in 2018-19 The State has collected revenue to the tune of Rs 37.11 crore during the period of April and May 2020 from minor minerals.

No Data on FIRs, cases, attacks, deaths As per official data, while one person was killed due to a road accident during illegal sand mining, two activists against illegal sand mining were killed in the State during the year 2019-20. The State has no data to show the number of attacks on government officials in the anti-illegal sand mining squad. There is no data on the number of FIRs and court cases on illegal sand miners.  (27 Feb. 2021)

Sand Export from Odisha During the question hour on Feb. 26, 2021 members cutting across party lines expressed concern over sand smuggling in the State. Speaker SN Patro also expressed concern over the matter and asked Revenue and Disaster Management Minister Sudam Marndi why the government has no specific policy for lifting sand from different rivers.

The Minister said the government is in the process of consultation with different stakeholders and will soon formulate a policy in this regard.  Stating that a decision was taken on April 11, 2018 for deploying police to check sand theft from different rivers, the Minister said it could not be implemented due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He said the government has already identified 144 tehsils in the state as sensitive areas. Special squads consisting of officials, including revenue inspectors, have been formed in those areas to keep a check on the illegal activities, he added.  (27 Feb. 2021)

The state is losing nearly Rs 14,000 crore per annum because of illegal sand mining, which is rampant across the state, the Opposition members alleged in the Assembly. They said that though a draft policy was prepared in 2018 to curb the illegal sand mining no steps were taken to turn it into a law.  (27 Feb. 2021)

Large scale sand mining on Kuakhai river bed continues on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. (29 Oct. 2020)

Govt diverts DMF funds to urban areas as mining-affected communities suffer  (05 May 2021)

The government notified the Odisha Sand Policy – 2021 aiming to identify and quantify all potential sand sources and devise mining plans accordingly to address the demand-supply gap as well as the adverse effects of sand mining.  (04 Sept. 2021)

5. Karnataka New sand rules fails to deal with Mafia The Cabinet approved the Karnataka Minor Minerals Concessions Rules, 2021, and fixed the price of sand at ₹300 per T at the gram panchayat level. Similarly, price of sand from riverbeds and streams and sold in urban areas/ towns/ cities has been fixed at ₹700 per T. (9 Nov 2021)

Deal with sand mafia Good to see the Deccan Herald writing top edit on the issue of Karnataka’s new sand mining policy and also headlining the sand mafia and also underlining the need to with environment impact issues. It would have been good if the edit had been more forthright also about the need for demand side management measures, not just supply side issues. It also highlights the adverse impact of M sand manufacture.

Sharing incidents of illegal sand mining damaging infrastructure and violent attacks by sand mafia on government officials, this concludes that no policy will work if this mafia continues to be in business.”  (10 Nov. 2021)

– Some key features of new sand policy. A truckload (10-15 T) of sand will cost Rs 10 to 12 k, down from current 30-40k. Sand extracted from gram panchayat land to cost Rs 300 per T, while sand from river to cost Rs 700 per T.

– Royalty to state will be Rs 50-60 per T. 25% of it will go to panchayats where sand is extracted and 25% to panchayats through which it is transported. It says sand can be extracted only with the permission of the local authorities. A district level body is to be formed to permit sand mining based on survey reports. The district level bodies to be responsible for monitoring and enforcement.

– The Minister said an environment impact assessment (EIA) is to be done of the sand policy. The govt to identify sand reserves, amount to be mined, depth to which it is to be mined, including from lakes, rivers and other sources. The traditional sand extraction in Dakshin Kannada district will continue in non CRZ areas, without using machinery.  (08 Nov. 2021)

Experts says the draft of the new policy favours the construction industry more over environmental issues. According to the Mining & Geology Department in Karnataka, 38 lakh tonnes of M-sand and 14-15 lakh MT of natural sand is utilised. There is a shortage of around 15-20 lakh MT annually. Experts say the shortage can be addressed with technological interventions, which the government is not keen to explore.

Conservationists say the new policy does not mention adhering to environmental rules – CRZs, eco-sensitive zones, buffer zones and protected areas – where mining activities are prohibited. As M-sand is obtained from quarries, a cap on this is also needed, says activist S R Hiremath. The government could have taken stern steps earlier and stopped illegal mining in Ballari. But it lacked political will. The same is happening now also. The government is supporting industries and areas like Raichur, river banks along Tungabhadra, Cauvery and others are being exploited, he pointed out.  (14 Nov. 2021)

SR Hiremath revealed how politicians are involved in the illegal sand mining and why the policy is being pushed now.

On alternative: M-sand is an alternative, but it is equally disastrous to ecology and local people. Another alternative, which is being explored is recirculation: extracting sand from debris. The real alternative is to use the minimum necessary quantity of sand by controlling our unnecessary aspirations, changing our perspective and lifestyle.

On Policy: The sand policy is not as big a problem as it sounds. But the challenge before the government and citizens is how to effectively deal with the powerful sand mafia, which has well-entrenched corrupt politicians and officials.

On Industry: The question of striking the balance should be answered not just in the short term concerning only the real estate sector, but also with a long-term perspective, considering a healthy relationship between nature, society and culture.  (03 Jan. 2021)

One of the recommendations of the Dr K Kasturirangan report is a complete ban on mining, quarrying and mining of sand in ecologically sensitive areas. This was in direct conflict with Sand Policy 2020. The state’s Sand Policy 2020 was on the lines Andhra Pradesh’s policy and shifts from past policies by classifying the streams as I, II, II, IV, V and VI. The classification will not stand legal scrutiny if the streams are not notified under relevant laws.

Sand mining in evergreen and semi-evergreen forests would largely affect the riparian ecosystem, fauna and flora. A riparian ecosystem is a vegetated area near a stream, usually thickly forested, which helps shade and partially protect the stream. It plays a key role in increasing water quality in associated streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries. Sand mining will destroy them, enhance the drying of perennial steams leading to extinction of amphibians, fish and other water habitat fauna/flora.

As per the estimation of the Mines Department, around 45 million tonnes (MT) of sand is required in the State per year. Of this, around 30 MT is produced and supplied as manufactured sand (M-sand). About 4.5 MT of natural sand is supplied legally from various sources. Some sand comes from other states. There is a gap of about 8.5-10 MT which is supplied and procured illegally. Some agencies put the requirement at 60-70 MT.  (3 Jan 2021)

This mentions of adverse impacts of stone, sand mining on local eco-system, people including water sources and forest and risks of making panchayats permitting authority and also raises important questions.  (24 Jan. 2021)

A senior legal expert says, “The best and fastest way to become a politician is to get yourself involved in mining as profit margins are more than 110 per cent as compared to other industries, where it is 10-15 per cent… People in power do not want to stop it because it is a major profitable business and that was the reason the government announced legalising it in Shivamogga. That was why portfolios of ministers were shuffled 4 times to ensure that the ‘right’ person gets it. Whoever knows about the industry is well aware that there is profit in every aspect of mining – extraction, transportation, sales and even middlemen,” says the expert, requesting anonymity.

The problem: He said there is no ready record with the M&G Department head office on how many mines and quarries are operating in Karnataka and how many are defunct. “Though the process has been decentralised, there should be a uniform platform available for the public to ensure transparency. There are no field-level staffers in the Department, like guards in the forest department or constables in the police department,” he adds.

The suggestion: A member of the SC committee on mining, UV Singh, who is known for his fight against illegal mining, says there is an urgent need to bring in amendments to existing laws. Alternative sources are well known and they should be used. The government must have the will to push it, he says.  (31 Jan. 2021)

Some other govt dicisions:- During question hour in Assembly, M&G Minister Murugesh Rudrappa Nirani said on Jan. 29, 2021 that a separate sand policy would be introduced to help the people of Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and Uttara Kannada districts in the coastal region.  (30 Jan. 2021) Udupi district was given a target of ₹ 24 crore royalty collection and so far, ₹ 16.29 crore was collected. Minister for M&G C.C. Patil on Jan. 6 asked officials to reach the target by March.  (07 Jan. 2021)

M&G Minister Murugesh R. Nirani on Feb. 10, 2021 said that the M&G department is planning to set up Karnataka Mineral Industrial Development Board (KMIDB) on the lines of Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) to give further impetus to mining activities.  The Minister said that a single-window agency also would be set up to ensure speedy clearance of proposals among forest, environment, revenue and home departments.  (11 Feb. 2021) 

Malaysia Sand:- This is another bid from MSIL after no demand for ‘videshi’ sand in the state. Government had taken up an ambitious plan of importing sand from Malaysia in 2018. Since then, 1.03 lakh tonnes of sand have been imported. However, there seems to be an unsteady demand as MSIL has been able to sell only 14,759 tonnes of sand so far. In fact, the imports have stopped since February 2020 where 89,000 tonnes of sand imported from Malaysia is lying at Krishnapatnam port in Andhra Pradesh.  (14 Sept. 2021)

Government is proposing to create a separate protection force to prevent illegal sand mining, the Department of M&G informed the NGT. Vehicles of the lessees are fitting with GPS to keep watch over the transportation. Weigh bridges and CCTVs are fitting at important places to prevent any illegality in transportation.  (19 Dec. 2021)

Illegal mining cases:- The state saw over 10,513 cases of illegal sand mining over the last 3 years. According to data tabled in the Legislative Council, illegal sand mining has gone unabated even during the pandemic with about 3,451 identified cases in 2020-21 and 3,193 cases in 2019-20, 3869 in 2018-19. (27 Sep 2021)

Stone Mining:- After over a month since quarry and stone-crushing units were shut following the blasts in Shivamogga and Chikkaballapur, the government decided to allow them to resume operations. M&G Minister Murugesh R Nirani said the closure of these units had led to job losses and had an adverse impact on the state’s revenue to the tune of over Rs 300 crore.  (31 March 2021)

Paper clip in a Kannada daily dated July 23, 2021 on the issue of illegal stone mining around KRS dam.

Mandya District in-Charge Minister K.C. Narayanagowda said that the government decided to ban all types of mining and quarrying, both legal and illegal, in 10-12 km radius of KRS Reservoir taking into account the safety and stability of the Dam.  (13 July 2021)

Next month, the M&G Minister Achar Halappa Basappa said that government would assess requests to renew quarrying licences near KRS dam. He dismissed complaints that the safety of the dam was compromised due to illegal quarrying around it.  (24 Aug. 2021)

Dirty dynamics of stone quarrying  (24 Jan. 2021)

Diversion of DMF Funds:- M&G Department allowed Dakshina Kannada district administration to utilise funds available under the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) for purchase of oxygen tankers, medicines and other health related items needed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The department has decided to consider similar demands from other districts.  (13 May 2021)

As of January 2021, the government had already spent around Rs 118 crore out of the DMF specifically toward COVID-19. Experts said that just because such special funds remain unspent does not provide legitimacy to utilising these for other purposes.  (17 May 2021)

6. W Bengal Mining corporation to auction sand mining rights All sand mining auctions in Bengal will be done by W Bengal Mineral Development and Trading Corp (WBMDTC) instead of district magistrates, CM Mamata Banerjee said on July 22. To usher in transparency and accountability into the allotment of 5 year sand mining rights along river beds state wide, the allotment process would be monitored by the state chief secretary and finance secretary. Bengal, the CM said, would also introduce CCTV coverage and digital mapping of sand mines.  (23 July 2021)

But those earlier auctions only covered a tiny portion of the sand mining activity, according to Biswajit Mukherjee, the former chief law officer of SPCB. “Illegal mining of sand from the riverbeds and riverbanks is rampant in several districts and the business runs into thousands of crores of rupees. There exists a nexus between local politicians, the mafia and the administration,” Mukherjee added.

The CM had also complained about the state losing out on revenue due to the local mafia. A senior officer of the state irrigation department put this into perspective: in December 2015, when there was a crackdown on sand mafia, the state’s revenue earning from sand mining went up from around ₹25 crore to ₹300 crore. “There have been crackdowns in the past but the menace goes on unabated with the help of local politicians, mafia and a section of the administration because huge money is involved. In an auction done legally, the bids can go as high as ₹2-3 crore. Imagine the profit from illegal sand mines,” the officer said.  (02 Aug. 2021)

Bengal chief secretary asks district magistrates to find more sand mining areas. (28 July 2021)

The WBMDTCL – under the industries department – was given the responsibility to monitor mining instead of the land and land reforms department, whose officials have often been accused of corruption. The agency directed operators to install GPS or RFID devices in all sand vehicles. The final list of operators was expected to be ready by October.  (14 Sept. 2021)

7. Uttarakhand Govt to have new mining policy  Officials, on Oct. 2 2021, said Uttarakhand is likely to formulate a new mining policy soon. State Chief Secretary SS Sandhu said, “for the first time, suggestions have been invited from the stakeholders to formulate ‘User Friendly’ policy for mining”. He further added that the new policy is likely to increase the revenue of Rs 500-1000 crore. Meanwhile, environmentalists, activists have objected to this suggestion alleging indiscriminate mining already being practiced in the hill state.

Dushyant Mainali, a practising advocate who has been pursuing multiple petitions including public interest litigations said, “the negative impact of illegal sand mining far outweighs the economic benefits. The perception that sand and boulders are useless and rivers have a lot of sand is incorrect, because they are crucial for the sustained existence of the river and perform many functions.”

Uttarakhand has lost about 50,000 hectares of its forests to ‘developmental activities’ in the past 20 years, revealed data by the state forest department last year. According to the data, the highest amount of forest cover has been lost to mining (8760 ha) followed by road construction (7539 ha), power distribution lines (2332 ha) and hydropower plant projects (2295 ha).  (02 Oct. 2021)

The new mining policy proposes reduction in distance for establishment of stone crushers and screening plants from earlier 250 m to 50 m from the banks of seasonal and rainfed streams and rivrers. Similarly, the distance for storage is proposed to be reduced from 1500 m to 500 m in hill area. The storage distance in plain areas is also proposed to be brought down from 1500 m to 1000 m along Ganga and 500 m along other rivers in plain areas. The policy reportedly relaxes storage rules. The govt also proposed to change name of River Training Policy to River Dredging Policy permitting lifting of riverbed minerals upto 3m through opening bidding.  (29 Oct. 2021)

New Policy Announced With several such relaxations the new mining policy was released on Nov. 10, 2021 by Meenakshi Sundaram, Secretary Mining Industry.  (12 Nov. 2021)

For monitoring illegal transportation and storage government decided to install GPS system in vehicles and CCTVs at storage points.  (12 Nov. 2021)

This report mentions of relaxation in new mining policy and says mining would be done through machines.  (11 Nov. 2021)

Namesake consultation This report says government had sought suggestion from all stakeholders, however people in the know say primarily the stone crushers owners and businessmen involved in mining were consulted and there was no such consultation with experts, general public and people from mining affected areas. The report further mentions government lacking revenue generation in proportion of area allotted for mining. The illegal mining is a problem and government planned to tackle it though installation of CCTV, drone cameras, satellite imageries.  (02 Oct. 2021)

Hindustan Hindi Aug. 29, 2021 report says 32 bridges were damaged in past 5 years in the state for reasons including poor quality construction, corruption and mining.

Government earns Rs 400-500 crores annually as revenue from mining. In 2020-21, mining activities generated reveue worth Rs. 506 crores. The target for 2021-22 was set Rs. 750 crores, however by July 2021, the revenue earned was Rs. 105 crores which is nearly 14 per cent of the target.  (19 Oct. 2021)

Staring at revenue losses due to pandemic restrictions, the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd, (GMVNL) which is mainly involved in pilgrim and tourism sector, also decided to enter into mining industry. As per Jatinder Kumar, GM, GMVNL tenders for mining at 36 sites including Asan, Bhaldi, Dubri, Banjarawala, Jakhan, Jhothi, Juyalgarh, Jwalapur, Kalirao, Mahendrapur, Naingaon, Sarana, Sripur, Sudhowala, Sundana, Towns, Yamuna were issued for five years on Sept. 14, 2021 where mining would start from October 1.  (15 Sept. 2020)

8. Andhra Pradesh Govt tie up with PSU for sand mining, supply The Mining dept has planned to enter into an agreement with Metal Scrap Trade Corp (MSTC). Whether the agency would take up the task of implementing the revised sand policy of the State govt on its own or it would appoint another agency was to be finalised.

The AP Principal Secretary (Mines and Panchayat Raj and Rural Development) Gopala Krishna Dwivedi said that the talks were in the final stage with the PSU, after they had received response from several Central agencies about implementing the revised sand policy.

The government had cleared the new sand policy deciding to hand over the entire sand mining activity to a single entity. It further intended to seek help from a Central Government agency for this purpose. Under the new policy, people would be authorised to examine the quality of sand & transport it in their own vehicles after the booking online. The Cabinet proposed a price list that would vary based on the delivery point from each supply or mining point. (3 Jan 2021)

CM Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy directed the officials to focus on expanding the revenue sources of the State for implementing Navaratnalu and other welfare schemes promised in the manifesto. During a review meeting on Feb. 11 2021, the CM called for focus on high revenue yielding mining activities and ordered that works related to sand mining be expedited.  (11 Feb. 2021)

Around 130 trucks and four tractors, ready to transport sand from the Krishna river, are stuck in flash floods on Aug. 14, 2021.

Officials of the AP Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC) said the MSTC, which was endorsed with the task of sand mining and supply, had invited technical bids and will call for financial bids within a week. All the remaining formalities involved in the process of transferring the operations is expected to be completed by the end of March.

Asked about the current position of sand as the construction activity picked up momentum across the State, the APMDC managing director said the demand and supply are more or less the same. “As of now, we are able to mine 1.25 lakh tonnes of sand a day and the demand stands at 1.30 lakh tonnes a day. Thus, the pendency is less and we are able to deliver the construction material on the immediate day after booking. Moreover, we have 14 lakh tonnes of buffer stock and thus, we are in a position to meet the demand,’’ Venkata Reddy explained.  (06 March 2021)

Director of the department of M&G entered into a MoU on 04-01-2021 with MSTC Ltd to select the eligible agency for undertaking sand mining, storage and sales for a period of 2 years. MSTC Ltd confirmed that Jayaprakash Power Ventures Ltd was the successful bidder as they announced the highest price for all 3 packages.

Officials informed that Jayaprakash offered Rs. 477.50 crore for package-1, Rs. 745.70 crore for package-2 and for Package – 3, Rs 305.60 crore.  (21 March 2021)

Responding to the allegations levelled against selection of Jayaprakash Power Ventures Ltd, Gopal Krishna principal secretary said, “The allegations that claim that the company isn’t experienced enough, or it would earn Rs 2,000 crore from this contract, or that the agency is bankrupt are all baseless.”

The government will also be holding an amount of Rs 120 crore as security, he said. He said that it is not possible for the company to earn Rs 2,000 crore out of the contract. The state requires two crore MTs and with the price capped at 475 per tonne, the total value on this contract is not more than Rs 950 crore, he said. Out of this, the company will have to pay the government Rs 765 crore. Therefore, the company is set to earn around Rs 72 crore, he said.  (22 March 2021)

NGT ordered a joint committee to inspect the alleged unscientific sand mining being done by Jaiprakash Power Ventures Limited in the 13 districts. It was alleged that the firm was carrying excessive mining using machines thus causing damages to rivers eco-system in Andhra.   (31 Aug. 2021)

The government had earned Rs 161.30 crore on sand in 2019-20 and Rs 380 crore during 2020-21 till February. It is expecting to earn a revenue of Rs 765 crore in the next financial year with the new contractor.  (21 March 2021)

State government is considering a proposal to allow both online and offline booking of sand, said principal secretary said. Recalling that customers faced hardships when the bookings were accepted only online when the APMDC took care of the sand operations, he felt that the presence of both the systems will allow customers the freedom to pick their preferred choice.  (22 Dec. 2021)

9. Goa Govt to decide on permitting legal sand mining from Chapora A senior official said that the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) has completed the impact study of Chapora river and its tributaries. “The study of Mandovi River is in process and the same is likely to be completed in next 2-3 months,” the official said. “The Government, through Environment Department and Directorate of Mines and Geology (DMG) will take a call on granting sand mining permits in Chapora River based on the findings of the impact study,” the official said.  (29 Dec. 2020)

Reiterating that the government is opposed to illegal sand mining carried out with mechanical pumps, CM Pramod Sawant on Jan. 24 2021 said there should not be a problem to restart sand extraction in the traditional way. He said that those who have gone to the court against sand mining are to be blamed and not the government for stopping sand extraction in Goa.  (25 Jan. 2021)

A study was under way to assess the environmental damage due to sand mining, Sawant told reporters. “The study of the first cluster covering the Chapora river has been completed. Based on the assessment, permissions will now be issued for sand extraction in that belt,” Sawant said. Sand mining in the rest of the rivers will be legalised once the study is completed, he said.  (25 Jan. 2021)

Nilesh Cabral, Goa’s cabinet minister of power and non-conventional energy, said, “In Goa river beds do not get dried up during the non-monsoon period. We have requested the MoEF to amend the CRZ Notification 2011 and allow the state to extract sand from flowing rivers by traditional means.”

The Goan reported that in Feb. 2021, the NIO had submitted a report to the state biodiversity board, assessing the environmental impact of 6 out of 12 sites along the Chapora river in Goa. It suggested that 33.20 lakh cubic meters of sand can be excavated from these sites. The report for this has been presented to the division bench of the Bombay high court at Panaji.

The NIO has also completed the study of the Mandovi river coastline, and the report is expected in April 2021. “Existing laws are snubbed and let sand mafias to proliferate. Natural sand is a part of the ‘commons’ and is meant for collective benefit, it is not the property of a selected few.” Antonio Mascarenhas from NIO added.  (12 March 2021)

CM Dr Pramod Sawant on April 7 2021 said the government has started the process of setting up the mining corporation to restart mining.  (08 April 2021)

In July 2021, government passed the Goa Mineral Development Corporation Bill, 2021 aiming to revive mining operations. The bill follows the decision of the Supreme Court which dismissed review petitions against its 2018 order ruling against the state government’s decision to renew 88 mining leases.

Civil society leaders fear that the government will sublease the contracts to mine owners, bringing the same people back. They also criticised that the new law does not address the concerns of the mining-affected communities.  (09 Aug. 2021)

Taking note of a report by scientists of the NIO, the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) gave the go ahead to resume sand extractions at 4 locations in the River Chapora. However, the committee laid down a host of restrictions, including installing CCTV systems to monitor the mining activity.

The NIO scientists Mandar Nanoskar and Saurav Mondal carried out prefeasibility reports for sand extraction for the River Chapora and found that the upper stretches of river banks have experienced bank erosion at many locations. They noted that many more areas are vulnerable and prone to bank erosion. “Based on the baseline data and the prevailing site conditions, sand extraction at unregulated rates or in the sensitive area will have negative impacts on the environment. Accordingly, certain areas in the stretches of the river have been demarcated where sand extraction from the river bed requires restrictions,” states the NIO report.  (03 Oct. 2021)

State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) approved sand mining in 4 stretches of the Chapora river at its meeting held on October 5. However, SEIAA has asked for further scientific studies to be carried out in the case of 2 other zones in the Chapora. Applications were received from the North Goa collector for 6 zones in the river for sand mining.  (17 Oct. 2021)

10. Punjab New mining policy would deplete fertile soil cover The government had recently come up with the new sand and gravel mining policy 2021, which states that landowners can dispose of ordinary earth extracted or removed during the leveling of their Agricultural fields up to 3-feet. Even the government advertisement states that landowners are permitted to extract up to 3-feet sand. Several farmers were already into illegal sand mining in their fields and this new policy now allows all farmers to extract up to 3 -feet earth from their fields without any environment clearance.

Earlier, farmers were required to take EC for mining their fields and as per norms, no agricultural land can be excavated upto 3-meters after procuring EC certificate. Agriculture department officials said that Punjab government’s policy will ruin the state’s soil badly because several farmers see the short term gains and also are not aware that the soil of the upper layer is the most fertile and best one.

Several sand dealers revealed that both individual farmers and panchayats, which own large village chunks of common land, are very much interested in getting mined their fields up to 3 feet and they are contacting them to bargain the rates. It is a lucrative business and they are getting a good amount. “If they are removing even a single cubic feet of earth from one acre, they would get Rs 3 to 3.5 lakh and by removing up to 3-cubic feet they would earn Rs 9 to 11 lakh from a single acres as we are paying them Rs 8 to 9 per cubic feet sand,” said a dealer in Jalandhar, adding that several farmers have asked him to remove sand from their fields after the harvesting of wheat.

This practice is quite common in Hoshiarpur’s Mukerian subdivision where farmers are giving their fields to the sand mafia for digging in exchange of money. The sand mafia is earning much more from what they are paying to the farmers from their fields. “This is a short term gain and farmers should not do it as it will lead to water logging in the low lying fields. And if the surrounding areas of such fields are at a higher level, then these fields would turn a drain for the surrounding areas,” said Dr RK Gupta, principal soil chemist, Department of Soil Sciences, PAU, adding that a brick or a house can be made from the unproductive soil but crops cannot be grown in non-fertile soil. He added that this is also causing a huge damage to our environment.  (02 Jan. 2022)

CM Captain Amarinder Singh on March 5 said when his government took over, the revenue from mining was as low as Rs. 35 crore annually, which has been enhanced to ₹250 crore.  (06 March 2021)

The Cabinet on April 1 cleared the setting up of an enforcement directorate (ED) to check illegal mining.  (01 April 2021)

The government on April 24 2021 imposed a ban on sand mining at night.  (24 April 2021)

ED reportedly started investigations into contractor Gurinder Singh’s suspected involvement in the “shady” sand mining contract dating back to 2017.  (31 July 2021)

CM Charanjit Singh Channi lauched “Mission Clean” to take strict action against drung, sand and liquor mafia.   (01 Nov. 2021)

Image on social media shared on Dec. 3, 2021 show illegal mining using barges along Sutlej river near Jindapur village area in Chamkaur Sahib under Rupnagar district which is also constituency of CM Charanjit S Channi.

CM announced a reward of Rs 25,000 to every person who gives a proof or tip-off about any violation of mining norms.  (28 Dec. 2021)

Other States

Jammu & Kashmir New rules open doors for stone crushers Past 40 years have been particularly brutal for riverine ecology in Jammu & Kashmir, as pollution, encroachment & water diversion have increased, adding to introduction of non-native species. In recent years a new threat has emerged: riverbed mining.

The regional government has recently permitted the establishment of more stone-crushing plants. According to a list seen, between October and December 2020 the region’s Department of Fisheries issued No Objection Certificates (NOCs) for around 130 additional stone crushers, 70 of them in the Kashmir Valley.

In late Feb 2021, the administration created new rules for stone crushers and ‘hot and wet mixing plants’ (where stones and gravel are processed), dispensing with the previous requirement for a licence. The rules simplify the process of establishing a unit by reducing the requisite clearances to just two documents: Consent to Operate (CTO) from the region’s Pollution Control Board and an NOC from the relevant district administrator.

The issuing of NOCs has been brought under the J&K Public Services Guarantee Act, 2011, making it mandatory to issue it within 30 days. This leaves little time for due diligence, much less an assessment of the environmental impact of the proposed stone crusher, which means assessments may be done on paper only.  (16 July 2021)

Miners have plundered the Rambi Ara river, threatening crucial public infrastructure [Jehangir Ali/Al Jazeera] (01 April 2021)

After the denial of Environment Clearance (EC) by the J&K Environment Impact Assessment Authority (JKEIAA) the authorities decided to prepare a policy document to revive traditional sand mining identifying rightful beneficiaries and send it to the Government of India for consideration.  (19 June 2021)

Rajasthan Task force, new policy CM Ashok Gehlot on Jan. 9 2021 constituted a task force comprising officers of forest, mines and revenue depts headed by chief secretary for speedy disposal of issues related to mining sector. He said the state govt would work with full commitment, technology, transparency & investment-friendly policy to take the state forward.

Gehlot said soon the govt would come out with a mineral and mines policy to provide a favourable environment for investment in this sector. The CM said the govt’s endeavour was to complete the process of mines auction in a transparent manner through the digital platform. He said procedures related to lease allocation and auction would be effectively monitored at the level of the CM and chief secretary. (10 Jan 2021)

CM after unveiling the manufactured (M) sand policy on Jan. 25 said the M-sand policy-2020 would prove to be a game changer with investment and creation of jobs in the mining sector in a big way. He said the use and production of M-sand in the state would be encouraged and the dependence on gravel mined the river beds will be reduced. The problem of waste in the mining areas would also be solved as masonry stones could be used as an input for M-sand.

Gehlot said in order to instill confidence among the public and to create demand, it has been decided use M-sand mandatory for the PWD and other government departmenst to use a minimum of 25% of their demand for sand from M-sand. Minister of mines and Gopalan Pramod Jain Bhaya said that M-sand units have been given industry status in the policy. He said that there is a demand for about 70 million tonnes of gravel in various construction works in the state in a year.

Principal Secretary of mines and petroleum department Ajitabh Sharma said new units to be set up and already operating in the state will also be eligible for the benefit payable under RIPS-2019 for their expansion. In this policy, attractive provisions have been made for the investors like investment subsidy, exemption electricity duty, land tax and stamp duty in SGST for 7 years. At present 20 major M-Sand units are operational, which is producing 20,000 tons of M-Sand per day. The establishment of new units will be encouraged once the policy is introduced.  (26 Jan. 2021)

In the past one year, 639 cases pertaining to illegal mining of different minerals were reported in different districts, data from the state’s mining department revealed. During Jan 1 2020 to Jan 31, 2021, the highest — 86 cases — were reported from Bhilwara district followed by Jodhpur and Nagaur with 58 and 49 cases respectively, revealed the data in response to a question in the Assembly.

In Jan 2021, government had lauchned M-sand policy to govern the manufacturing of sand using mining waste. The policy was introduced with the purpose of increasing the supply of legal sand in the state. However, in recent times, illegal mining of sand has come up as one of the biggest challenges faced by the government, with CM Ashok Gehlot himself acknowledging the problem on several occasions.

According to the data, in the past 3 financial years (2018-19, 2019-20 and up to January 31, 2021), the mines department registered 38,335 cases and collected Rs 252.85 crore as fine. In 3,375 of these cases, FIRs were registered by the police.  (03 March 2021)

After the amendment to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, about 46 mineral bearing blocks were set to be cancelled and the mines department issued orders to analyse the status of each block for either auction or exploration.  (04 May 2021)

After nearly 35 years, 3 leaseholders were allowed to excavate sand from the riverbeds of Luni and Banas in Kotadi (Bhilwara), Jalore and Syala (Jalore) by government on May 26. There are 82 large lease holders for sand mining in the state. “After the completion of the replenishment study, the lease holders had received EC on October 16, 2020. So, it was decided to allow these large operators to mine sand,” an official with the mining dept said.

According to officials, the demand of the remaining 79 large leaseholders was pending in the Supreme court. After the central empowered committee (CEC) had recommended issuing EC to valid lease holders, the hearing was scheduled on April 15. However, it was postponed after the second Covid-19 wave.  (27 May 2021)

Congress MLA Bharat Singh has written to CM Ashok Gehlot on the rampant illegal sand mining.  (27 June 2021)

Despite the fact that the Dholpur police noticed the stocking of illegally mined sand gravel worth more than Rs 1 crore, they were unable to transport in lacking resources and vehicles. Police stated that during the monsoon to avoid day-today transportation and invite risk the mining mafia stocked their bajri at various villages in Dang Basai and other areas.  (19 July 2021)

Tamil Nadu River sand mining set to return Clearing the decks for river sand use in construction after about a decade, the government fixed 1,000 per unit as basic cost of sand, and unveiled a set of guidelines to supply sand in a “fair and transparent manner”. To begin with, the department of water resources permitted 16 lorry quarries and 21 bullock carts’ sand quarries, which had EC, to operate. Following this, as many as 63 lorry quarries and 8 bullock cart sand quarries, which are in various stages for obtaining EC, would be permitted to operate as per the existing protocol said an order issued by Sandeep Saxena, additional chief secretary of the water resources department.

Till a decade ago, river sand was a key construction material, but it grew scarce about five years back. Promoted aggressively by the then state government, m-sand replaced river sand almost totally in recent years. The present order marking the return of river sand into construction sector has come amidst allegations from environmentalists that m-sand caused irreplaceable damage to earth and its exploitation was rampant and unscientific.  (09 Jan. 2022)

Govt likely to stop import of river sand 3 years after introducing a policy allowing for the import of river sand to counter an acute shortage of the key construction material, Tamil Nadu may do away with the policy. While the contractor sourcing sand from overseas has been told not to proceed with anymore imports, new sand quarries to scoop river sand in different districts are in the offing. Consumer organisations have urged the government to make river sand from local quarries available to the public at nominal rates.

About 18,616.5 tonnes of river sand imported through three TN ports including Kamarajar port and Adani Kattupalli port on Chennai’s outskirts have remained unsold since mid-July. Now, according to a PWD order, the contractor importing sand has been given till June 2022 to complete the sale of existing stock. The initiative to import natural river sand was launched in September 2018, with most of it received from Malaysia.

PWD officials said import of river sand would be discontinued since there were few takers after the demand for MSand shot up. Pointing out that MSand was cheaper, they said the cost component was a major factor. “The government is planning to reopen 15 new sand quarries across the state, for which steps have been initiated to get necessary approvals,’ a PWD official said. While seven sand quarries are currently operating across the state, the new quarries are set to open in the first quarter of next year.

Tamil Nadu M-Sand Lorry Owners Welfare Association president S Yuvaraj said three units (300 cubic feet) of imported river sand cost Rs 40,000 including the charges for delivering it to construction sites. “But, the same quantity of MSand is available for half the price, Rs 19,500, and covers the transportation charges as well,” he added.  (20 Oct. 2021)

Summary Unscientific and unsustainable are only words that best describe the riverbed mining situation in India over the years. Categorized under minor minerals, the identification, extraction, storage, transportation of riverbed minerals (RBMs) is under state governments’ jurisdiction. The state governments are also responsible for curbing the illegalities and irregularities associated with the mining operations. The Central government also has significant role both as environment regulator and in policy making. But the Central government has shown little commitment in this regard.

Broadly, every single state governments in India has made riverbed mining a revenue generation business where with each passing year the mining operations and revenue targets are only surpassing previous records, while the sustainability and governance issues are being buried even deeper. This has been common feature and sad reality of riverbed mining activities all through the pandemic year in India in 2021.

In fact, now most of illegal, unscientific riverbed mining is happening in so called legally approved mining projects across the country. The state governments have been changing the policies only to relax norms to facilitate more mining and rely heavily on CCTVs, GPS, drones etc. for monitoring and norm compliance though these tools have proved of no good so far. However, the governments refuse to provide any key role for the local communities, the biggest stakeholders.

Setting up of development corporations, boards and outsourcing mining to corporate giants is emerging trend. On the other hand, the mining departments are short staffed and lack basic skills, resources to check unlawful excavation of finite minerals. The unaccountable and opaque political economy of riverbed mining is an elephant in the room that no one is ready to give necessary attention. The sand mafias are flourishing due to political patronage across the party lines. Unless, these route causes are addressed, no one can save the rivers and people from mining monsters and disasters. 

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (

2 thoughts on “Riverbed Mining India 2021 Overview: Govts’ Changing Policies to Mine Revenues

  1. It’s a Neo norm in India and elsewhere. Whoever stands against corruption of any kind, face trials and tribulations. The violators get away and repeat their acts on another person.


    1. This is a very sad state of affairs. River mining has a overall negative impact on the environment and so this is just short-term profit at the expense of long-term environmental damage. Why are the Indian local authorities allowing this? Why are the local water authorities not intervening to stop it taking place?

      “Excessive instream sand-and-gravel mining causes the degradation of rivers. Instream mining lowers the stream bottom, which may lead to bank erosion. Depletion of sand in the streambed and along coastal areas causes the deepening of rivers and estuaries, and the enlargement of river mouths and coastal inlets.”


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