The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to Centre in a Public Interest Litigation which seeks a direction that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and public consultation before grant of Environmental Clearance (EC) should be made mandatory for all sand mining projects across the nation.
The petition filed by M Alagaraswamy points out that the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has classified sand mining projects having area up to 25 hectares as category B2 project under the EIA notification 2006, which do not require EIA, EMP or public consultation before grant of EC.
This has resulted in rampant illegal sand mining taking place affecting the ecological balance, submitted petitioner's counsel Advocate Prashant Bhushan before the bench of Justices S A Bobde, Subhash Reddy and B R Gavai.
Although the Supreme Court had directed in 2012 in Deepak Kumar case that all mining projects, regardless of area, should have EC, the classification of sand mining projects having less than 25 hectares area has made the EC meaningless, the petitioner states.
The petition refers to Sustainable Sand Mining Guidelines framed in 2016, which stated that exempting EIA, EMP and public consultation does not serve the purpose of environmental clearance which is to ensure environmentally sustainable and socially responsible mining.
The petition also points out that approved mining plan has not been made compulsory for obtaining EC.
"Because Respondent No.1 had issued an Office Memorandum dated 24th December, 2013, whereby, for river sand mining projects with mining lease of area more than 5 ha. but less than 25 ha. only manual mining was permitted and no in-stream mining was allowed. However, various news publications such as the Indian Expresses and Times of India have categorically reported that mechanised mining is carried out in areas admeasuring less than 25 h", stated the petition filed through Advocate Prashant Bhushan and Pranav Sachdeva.
The petition prays that no environmental clearance (EC) be accorded for any sand mining project without an appropriate environmental impact assessment (EIA), environmental management plan (EMP), and public consultation.
It is also prayed that a direction be issued to the Centre to not grant any EC for sand mining projects without taking into consideration the overall impact the project would have on the region.
Tto uncovering sand mining scams, a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is also sought by the petitioner.
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