Saturday, October 31, 2020

Bihar's District Survey Report on Sand Mining "quashed" and declared "void and a nullity"

Recent Chronology of Bihar Sand Mining case in National Green Tribunal (NGT) 

October 14, 2020: National Green Tribunal (NGT) uploaded its 89 page order wherein it held that Bihar's District Survey Report (DSR) 2018 "cannot be considered as a final DSR and is only an Interim report. (b) The DSR 2019 incorporating the 14 Sand Ghats also cannot be considered as a final DSR and is hereby quashed."

Under Clause 7 (III) (a) of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006 under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 makes preparation of a District Survey Report (DSR) for sand mining or riverbed mining and mining of other minerals mandatory.   

NGT has also held that "All actions taken pursuant to DSR 2018 and DSR 2019" are "void and a nullity." 

NGT has directed that "the State to undertake further exercise for preparation of a fresh DSR for the Banka district," Bihar. 

NGT observes that as the District Level Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) is not functioning as a consequence of the decision of the NGT in Satendra Pandey v. Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change [MoEF&CC] (2018), the DSR shall be prepared through a consultant(s) accredited by the National Accreditation Board of Education and Training/ Quality Control Council of India in terms of O.M. of MoEF&CC dated March, 2010. 

NGT directed that "The DSR so prepared shall be submitted to the District Magistrate who shall verify the DSR only in respect of the relevant facts pertaining to the physical and geographical features of the district which shall be distinct from the scientific findings based on the parameters" prescribed in the Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines (SSMMG), 2016. It further directed "After such verification, the District Magistrate shall forward the DSR for examination and evaluation by the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC)" having regarding to the fact that the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) comprises of technical/scientific experts. It also directed that "The SEAC after appraisal of the report shall forward it to the SEIAA for consideration and approval if it meets all scientific/technical requirements." 

It directed that "While preparing the DSR, the MoEF&CC Accredited Agency/Consultant shall scrupulously follow the procedure and the parameters laid down under the Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines (SSMMG), and Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining (EMGSM), 2020 read in sync with each other."

September 23, 2020: The Principal Bench of NGT heard a petition of Pawan Kumar of Banka through Video Conferencing. The petitioner had prayed for  proper sand mining in accordance with law and the regulatory framework including various decisions of the Tribunal, environmental laws, Notifications and Guidelines framed by the Central Government to safeguard the environment. The case was heard by Justice S. P. Wangdi, Judicial Member and Dr. Nagin Nanda, Expert Member. 

The petition had contended that there has been in partial compliance of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006, the Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines (SSMMG), 2016 nd the directions of NGT in the case of Anjani Kumar v. State of U.P. (2017). The petitioner pointed out that an Interim DSR for sand mining or riverbed mining and brick earth, was prepared for the Banka district in the year 2018. This was an Interim DSR which has never been finalized. The Applicant stated that the concluding paragraph of Interim DSR revealed 226 hectare as the total area of Sand Ghat having mineable mineral potential of 12,82,451.94 MT in River Chandan/Chanan and, approximately 109 ha with 6,17,576.4 MT mineable mineral potential in Cheer river that had been identified for sand mining in consultation with the concerned authorities before obtaining Environmental Clearance (EC) or other statutory clearances. 

This NGT verdict creates a compelling logic for quashing all District Survey Reports on Sand Mining and declaring all to be "void and a nullity" to safeguard river's ecosystem because there is been non-compliance with procedure and the parameters laid down under the Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines (SSMMG), and Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining (EMGSM), 2020 especially in Sone river bed. Indiscriminate sand mining in Sone and Ganga is a cause of great worry in this region. Public Hearings by Bihar State Pollution Control Board is being advertised routinely for sand mining amidst covid lockdown and amidst electoral process.(Photo: Trucks carrying illegal sand in Koelwar-Sahar region of Sone river in Bhojpur, Bihar).

It is noteworthy that Supreme Court's order in Deepak Kumar v. State of Haryana (2012) 4 SCC 629 has been violated. NGT order in Satendra Pandey case drew on the Court's order in Deepak Kumar case. It emerges that most relevant public institutions have found it difficult to combat environmental lawlessness unleashed by traders of sand, the minor mineral. This has become a major environmental challenge which threatens the existence of rivers. If there is no sand in the river, there will be no water in the rivers. As a consequence cities and villages in the vicinity face the prospect of ghost cities and villages because of surface water and ground water crisis. 

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