In the second part of three-part blog series SANDRP presents an overview of steps taken by Central and State Governments on this issue of river sand mining practices in the year 2016.
The year 2016 started with a welcoming development when none other than the Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi himself, while delivering inaugural address at 103rd session of Indian Science Congress, in Mysuru on January 06, 2016 cited the importance of rivers in human history. Emphasizing the value of rivers, he stressed on the use of science and technology to understand the impact of urbanization, farming, industrialization and ground water use and contamination on the river eco-system. Revering the Rivers as soul of nature, the PM emphasized to make renewal of Rivers an element of a larger effort to sustain Nature.
Contrary to this, on January 06, 2016, the Union Transport Minister revealed Government plans considering use of river sand for national highways construction. The minister particularly mentioned sand of river Yamuna to be used in construction of national highways and agreements would be signed with states to seek approval for using sand from their rivers. The report ironically mentioned it as innovative moves to boost infrastructure development. Interestingly the Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines 2016 from Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) condemned the use of sand in concretization including its burial under highways despite very high value of minerals found in the sand.
In the same month the MoEF&CC came out with a draft notification for a new sustainable sand and minor mineral mining policy applicable form January 1, 2016. Proposing to decentralize the process of granting environmental clearance the draft notification prescribed creation of District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) for screening mining proposals followed after district level survey report. As per the draft policy District, State and Central level authorities were eligible to approve environment clearances (EC) for mining up to five ha, 5-50 ha, over 50 ha respectively.