The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a complete ban on the removal of sand from riverbeds across the country without a proper environmental clearance.
The move comes at the head of nation-wide resentment over the suspension of an IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal for cracking down on the sand mafia in Uttar Pradesh.
The tribunal passed the order on a petition filed by the National Green Tribunal Bar Association, which alleged that illegal sand mining activities were going on in UP with the "wilful connivance" of the state machinery.
The tribunal noted that the loss caused to the state exchequer due to illegal sand mining could run into lakhs of crores of rupees.
The tribunal bench headed by chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar widened the ambit of the order and made it applicable across the nation as the petition raised substantial environmental issues across the country.
Modifying the original order banning illegal sand mining on the beds and banks of rivers Yamuna, Ganga, Hindon, Chambal, Gomti, amongst others, the tribunal said the issue of sand mining has nationwide implications.
Any removal of sand from riverbeds or riverbanks would need clearance from the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) or the respective state environment impact assessment authority (SEIAA), the tribunal said.
"We restrain any person, company, authority to carry out any mining activity or removal of sand, from river beds anywhere in the country without obtaining environmental clearance from MoEF/SEIAA and licence from the competent authorities," the bench said.
The bench also issued notices to all respondents and had asked them to respond by 14 August.
The NGT also directed all officials concerned with mining as also police officers across states to ensure compliance of its order.
In its petition, the National Green Tribunal Bar Association had alleged that those opposed sand mining, including field level officers, like suspended SDM Durga Sakhti Nagpal, have been victimised.
Nagpal, the 28-year-old SDM of Gautam Budh Nagar who led the crackdown on sand mining mafia in her district, was suspended on 27 July ostensibly for ordering demolition of a wall of a under-construction mosque allegedly without following the due process.
Nagpal, who belongs to the UP cadre, was charged yesterday.
National Green Tribunal, a body created by an Act of Parliament, assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment. The tribunal itself is a special fast-track court to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues.