The National Green Tribunal today cracked the whip on illegal sand mining and extraction of minor minerals in Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh while slapping a fine of Rs 50 crore on five lease holders for carrying out excessive unauthorised mining resulting in damage and degradation of environment.
The green panel imposed a complete prohibition on stone crushers and mining of minor minerals (bajri, boulders) in Yamunanagar and Saharanpur districts and other villages situated on the floodplains of river Yamuna for a period of 45 days from today.
It also imposed an environmental compensation of Rs 2.5 crore on Saharanpur based-Pradhan Stone Crushers for "illegally" operating stone crushing units without obtaining consent from the state pollution control board.
"The operators of mines and stone crushers who have been operating without the consent of the state boards, violating the laws, operating without environmental clearance (EC), operating in violation of conditions of the EC and operating without consent of the Central Ground Water Authority as well as causing air and water pollution and have degraded and damaged the environment, ecology and biodiversity with reference to Yamuna and its riverbed and affected the lives of the residents of various villages, falling under these districts on the bank of river Yamuna.
"In view of the undisputable fact that nearly 2,40,704 cubic meters of mined minerals were illegally extracted and transported, the private respondents and noticees are liable to pay environmental compensation," a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.
The Tribunal also constituted a high powered committee
headed by the Secretary of Environment Ministry and directed the Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments to submit a complete and comprehensive mining plan to the panel.
"It (committee) should provide complete mechanism for establishing check posts to ensure that there is no illegal transportation of mined minerals in these areas. No over- loading should be permitted. Mining activity (if at all permitted) should be carried out in a semi-mechanised and scientific manner or totally non-mechanised manner," the bench said.
It further said that if any person was found to be violating these directions and carrying on mining of minor minerals then such person would be liable to pay Rs 5 lakhs as environmental compensation for each such event.
The directions came while hearing a plea by environment activists Gurpreet Singh Bagga and Jai Singh who had moved the Tribunal against rampant illegal mining of minor minerals in Saharanpur and the riverbed of Yamuna.
According to the applicants, "a handful of mining lease holders were treating the entire district as mining area irrespective of what is mentioned in their mining permit and the EC".