VIJAYAWADA: The YSRC government on July 23, contrary to its earlier stand, said no illegal sand mining had taken place in River Krishna near the residence of former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu at Undavalli.
Presenting his argument before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Tuesday, senior advocate Venkataramani, while denying any illegal sand mining upstream of the Prakasam barrage, said only desilting exercise was carried out in the river.
The government’s contention was the same as the one presented by the previous Chandrababu Naidu’s regime. According to Shravan, an advocate representing the petitioner, Anumolu Gandhi, the senior counsel for the State said the desilting was carried out for the National Inland Waterway project and maintained that no clearance was needed for the purpose.
Further, Venkataramani reportedly argued that the sand thus extracted was used in the construction of Amaravati capital city projects. The tribunal wanted to know from the government counsel if any environmental clearance was obtained for the waterways project and if any study was carried out before the desilting exercise was taken up. The government was directed to file a comprehensive report with all details in two weeks time and the case hearing was adjourned to September 2.
When TNIE tried to contact Minister for Mines Peddireddy Ramachandra Reddy, his phone was switched off. Efforts to reach the chief secretary for his comments, too, went in vain. Meanwhile, Gandhi, one of the petitioners in the case, expressed shock over the development, when contacted by TNIE. He said in recent collector’s conference, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy had alleged rampant illegal mining upstream of the Prakasam barrage.
“The committee constituted by the government in its report said illegal sand mining was happening. What more evidence do they need? We stand by what we have said and we will continue our legal battle to protect river Krishna,” he said.
On April 4, 2019, the NGT issued an interim order imposing a fine of Rs 100 crore on the State government and directed it to initiate criminal proceedings against those responsible for illegal sand mining. The interim order was issued by the NGT principal bench headed by Justice AK Goel in response to a petition filed by waterman Rajendra Singh, farmer and social worker from Amaravati region Gandhi, environmental activist Prof Vikram Soni and social activist Bolisetty Satyanarayana.
In the order, the State government was pulled up for allowing sand mining sans any environmental clearance. The NGT bench also found fault with the heads of the departments concerned. It had also constituted a committee comprising experts from the Central Pollution Control Board, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, National Institute of Mines, Dhanbad, IIT Roorkee and Madras School of Economics, to undertake an environmental damage assessment within three months. The SC on May 13 had suspended the NGT order and allowed the State government to place its stand before the tribunal on illegal sand mining. The government claimed it was not granted an opportunity to be heard by the green tribunal before the order for depositing Rs 100 crore with the CPCB was passed.