KOLLAM: Greens are crying foul over a recent circular issued by the Department of Environment and Climate Change, making Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC) from the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) mandatory for mining or extraction of ordinary sand in the state. According to them, the circular is mute over sand mining from areas of less than 5 hectares and may miss the target which it desires to hit.
As per the circular issued by the Environment Department dated February 9, 2016, large-scale extraction of ordinary sand under the guise of ordinary earth is being carried out on the river banks and former river courses of the state pointing out that ECC from SEIAA should be made mandatory for such activities. The directive is stated to be issued in the wake of a letter by SEIAA citing that the guidelines of mining of minor minerals published by the Union Ministry of Environment on June 2013 doesn’t state the need for obtaining an ECC for mining of ordinary sand.
“Due to illegal extraction or mining of ordinary sand many rivers have breathed their last. If the Environment Department and SEIAA are concerned with the longevity of our rivers then they should come out with a parameter and terms of reference for mining of ordinary sand irrespective of the area of mining. The sand audit report of 11 rivers should become a wake-up call for the concerned.
“My opinion is that the government should declare ‘holidays on sand mining’ for the next five years in our rivers,” said Latha Anantha, director, River Research Centre.Interestingly, a suggestion in this regard was made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests, when the team visited the state on December 2015.
“The committee headed by Ashwani Kumar had then suggested to the state government to declare holidays on sand mining in identified rivers so as to revive the ecological balance of the rivers. It also observed in its sitting that ordinary sand mining from rivers in the state often violated the Supreme Court ruling (in the Deepak Kumar case of 2009).
According to environmentalists, in order to meet the challenges the Kerala Protection of River Banks and Regulation of Removal of sand Act 2001 has to be amended. Attesting to it the 49th SEIAA meeting highlighted that as the river sand mining in the state was being carried out in the purview of the 2001 Act, it had to be amended by incorporating the provisions directed by the Supreme Court.
“The state is witnessing a slew of big developmental projects, but no one thinks about the source of sand for the construction activities. It will be better to stipulate the developmental projects in accordance with the availability of sand. These developments will be of no use when we give scant regard to the source of natural resources,” said Latha.