The central government has decentralised the process of granting environmental clearance for sand mining and mining of minor minerals and has prepared guidelines for sustainable sand mining.
The ministry of environment and forests has created district environment impact assessment authority (DEIAA) for proper monitoring of sand mining. In consultation with the state governments, the ministry has also prepared guidelines for sustainable sand mining.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, minister of state (independent charge) of environment, forest and climate change, Prakash Javadekar, said the ministry has taken several policy initiatives and enacted environmental and pollution control legislations to prevent indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources and to promote integration of environmental concerns in developmental projects.
The minister said that one such initiative is to formulate the policy for mining of minor minerals with special emphasis on sustainable sand mining. He also said that information technology and information technology-enabled services will be used to track mined out minerals.
The movement of mined out material and sand will be controlled through transit permit. The security feature of transit permit include, printing on IBA approved MICR paper, unique barcode, unique QR code, fugitive ink background, invisible ink mark, void pantograph and watermark.
Information technology tools such as bar coding and SMS will be used to monitor the mined out material from source to destination, he said.
Javadekar said the ministry has published a draft notification on 22 September 2015 on environmental clearance for mining of minor minerals, including sand mining, inviting comments from the public.
The notifications inter-alia brought out the following:
- For the first time, Environmental Clearance power of the ministry is being delegated to district-level committee headed by district magistrate or district collector for mining lease area up to 5 hectares for individual lease and 25 ha in cluster.
- For the first time the procedure for handling cases of cluster defined and also for one cluster one EIA/EMP and one public hearing to be conducted.
- Four-member district level environment impact assessment authority (DEIAA) is responsible for grant of environmental clearance for Category 'B2' projects for mining of minor minerals, for all the districts in the country. The chairperson of DEIAA will be district magistrate or district collector and the member secretary will be sub-divisional magistrate or sub-divisional officer. The other two members are DFO and an expert to be nominated by the divisional commissioner.
- For the purposes of assisting the authority for the districts, the ministry has also constituted an 11-member district level expert appraisal committee (DEAC) for all the districts of the country. The chairperson of the DEAC will be executive engineer, irrigation department and member secretary will be assistant director, or deputy director or district mines officer or geologist in the district. The other members will be from sub-divisional officer (forest); representative of remote sensing department or geology department or state ground water department; occupational health expert or medical officer; engineer from zila parishad; state pollution control board or committee; senior most assistant engineer, public works department; and three experts to be nominated by the divisional commissioner.
Certain activities have been exempted from environment clearance. These include:
- Extraction of ordinary clay or sand, manually, by the Kumhars (potter) to prepare earthen pots, lamp, toys, etc as per their customs;
- Extraction of ordinary clay or sand, manually, by earthen tile makers who prepare earthen tiles;
- Removal of sand deposits on agricultural field after flood by farmers;
- Customary extraction of sand and ordinary earth from sources situated in gram panchayat for personal use or community work in village;
- Community works like de-silting of village ponds or tanks, construction of village roads, ponds, 'bunds' undertaken in Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment and Guarantee Schemes, other government sponsored schemes, and community efforts;
- Dredging and de-silting of dams, reservoirs, weirs, barrages, river, and canals for the purpose of their maintenance, upkeep and disaster management;
- Digging of well for irrigation or drinking water; and digging of foundation for buildings not requiring prior environmental clearance;
- Excavation of ordinary earth or clay for plugging of any breach caused in canal, 'nala', drain, water body, etc, to deal with any disaster or flood like situation upon orders of district collector, or district magistrate; and
- Activities declared by state government under legislations or rules as non-mining activity with concurrence of the ministry of environment, forest and climate change.