The National Green Tribunal on Monday banned mining or removal of sand from river beds across the country without an environmental clearance, amid the uproar over the suspension of an Indian Administrative Service officer, Durga Shakti Nagpal, who had cracked down on the sand mafia in Uttar Pradesh.
The tribunal noted the loss caused to the state due to illegal sand mining could run into lakhs of crores. The order was given on a plea alleging that such activities were going on in UP with the "wilful connivance" of its state machinery.
Widening the ambit of the plea, a bench headed by Chairperson Swatanter Kumar said its order would be applicable across the nation, as the petition had raised substantial environmental issues.
Initially, the bench banned illegal sand mining on the beds and banks of Yamuna, Ganges, Hindon, Chambal and Gomti, among others but later modified its order saying illegal removing of sand had nationwide implications. The bench said the clearance had to be obtained from the ministry of environment and forests or State Environment Impact Assessment Authority.
The tribunal also directed all mining and police officers concerned of all states to ensure compliance of its orders, on the plea filed by the National Green Tribunal Bar Association.
The petition alleged that those who have opposed such sand mining, including field level officers, like suspended SDM Durga Sakhti Nagpal, have been victimised which is also apparent from various news reports. Nagpal, the 28-year-old SDM of Gautam Budh Nagar who led the crackdown on sand mining mafia in her district, was suspended on July 27 ostensibly for ordering demolition of a wall of a under-construction mosque allegedly without following the due process. Nagpal, who belongs to the UP cadre, was chargesheeted yesterday. Senior advocate Raj Panjwani assisted by advocate Ritwick Dutta, appearing for the association, contended that "rampant" illegal mining and transport of lakhs of tonnes of sand is being carried on every year and is causing a loss of lakhs of crores of rupees to the state exchequer.