De-silting Of Dams Not Exempted From Obtaining Prior Environment Clearance: NGT Imposes ₹50 Crores Penalty On Karnataka Irrigation Department
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) South Zone has imposed a penalty of 50 crore rupees on the Irrigation Department of Karnataka for conducting mining activities in Adyapadi and Shamburu Dams in the Dakshin Kannada District without obtaining environmental clearance, in violation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 2006.The bench, comprising of Justice Pushpa...
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) South Zone has imposed a penalty of 50 crore rupees on the Irrigation Department of Karnataka for conducting mining activities in Adyapadi and Shamburu Dams in the Dakshin Kannada District without obtaining environmental clearance, in violation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification of 2006.
The bench, comprising of Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana (Judicial Member) and Dr. Satyagopal Korlapati (Expert Member), held that dredging and desilting of dams are not exempted from obtaining prior Environmental Clearance as the sand was being extracted for commercial purposes.
Background of the case
The District Sand Monitoring Committee issued a work order to Karnataka State Mineral Corporation Ltd. (KSMCL) for desiltation work, which involved extracting 14,51,680 MT of sand from the backwaters of Adhyapadi Dam on Phalguni River in Mangaluru Taluka and Shamburu Dam on Nethravathi River in Bantwal Taluka. Both dams are located in the Dakshin Kannada District of Karnataka.
The work order does not state any condition to obtain Environmental Clearance.
The Deputy Commissioner of Dakshina Kannada District stated that dredging of the Adhyapadi and Shamburu Dams is allowed, and the collected sand will be sold commercially.
The applicant submitted that the work order issued by the Sand Mining Committee is not sustainable, as it directly violates the EIA Notification of 2006, which prohibits dredging and desilting of dams without obtaining prior Environmental Clearance.
In the present case, 14,51,680 MT of sand is going to be extracted from the silt, and the extracted sand will be sold commercially. The applicant states that the EIA Notification of 2006 exempts the taking of Environmental Clearance only for the purpose of maintenance, upkeep, and disaster management related to the dredging and desilting of dams, but not for commercial sand mining.
The applicant also pointed out that the Sustainable Sand Mining Guidelines, 2016 (SSM Guidelines) issued by the MoEF&CC describe desilting activity involving the extraction of sand as a mining operation.
On the other hand, the respondent, the Department of Mines and Geology, Bengaluru, contended that the dredging and de-silting of dams has arisen due to the gathering of silt/sand in the reservoir area of the dam, thereby reducing its carrying capacity. After analysis and quantity determination, a fixed area was found to have gathered silt/sand.
The respondent further stated that the work order was only for removing the silt/sand that is deposited in the dam and not for sand mining in the river.
The respondents also pointed out that the work order mentioned that the dredging and desilting was being done to increase the capacity of water storage in Adyapadi Dam, Mangalore Taluka, and Shamburu Dam in Bantwala Taluka, which falls under the purview of maintenance, upkeep, and disaster management.
The same is exempted under EIA Notification,2006 and Karnataka Minor Minerals Concession (Amendment) Rules, 2021.Therefore, the environment clearance is not required.
After hearing both the sides, NGT decided that Environmental Clearance is mandatory for desiltation of dams when extraction of sand for commercial use is envisaged as per EIA Notification, 2006.
The Tribunal found that in this case, the desilting was done not only for the upkeep and maintenance of the dams but also to extract sand from the silt to be sold at a rate fixed by the government, which is an admitted commercial activity. As it involves commercial activity, it cannot be stated that the dredging activity is exempted as provided in Clause 6 of Appendix IX of the EIA Notification, 2006.
Therefore, the impugned work order is contrary to the EIA Notification, 2006 for not having obtained the Environmental Clearance.
In light of the above the Tribunal levied a penalty of Rs.50 crores on the Irrigation Department, Government of Karnataka which is to be paid to Central Pollution Control Board and the said amount will be utilised for pollution abatement in river stretches with priority to stretches in and around Bengaluru.
Case Title - Sarvabhoum Bagali v. State of Karnataka and others.
Original Application No.- 142 of 2022 (SZ)