Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai)
Red flag against 36 UP sand mining projects
RULES FLOUTED Projects got nod based on Regional Environmental Impact Assessment
NEW DELHI: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has withheld the environmental clearance (EC) given to at least 36 sand mining projects in Uttar Pradesh on the ground that it was obtained in violation of rules specified in the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006.
The mines, located in the floodplains of the Ken, Yamuna and Betwa rivers, had got a “Regional Environmental Impact Assessment (REIA)” done by a private consultant. Based on the REIA, many projects were granted environmental clearance by the Statelevel Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEAC).
But according to the EIA 2006 notification, there is no concept called REIA. Each sand mining project is required to submit an individual EIA report, which is to be appraised individually by the SEAC. Some lawyers and competitors of the private EIA consultant who did the REIA had noticed the aberration and informed SEAC about it.
According to an appeal filed before the NGT by Amit Upadhyay on December 12 against the ECS, about 12 sand mining projects were granted clearance by the SEAC even before the terms of reference (TOR) was issued. The TOR is issued by the SEAC as soon as a project applies for EC, based on which the EIA report is drafted and public hearings are conducted.
“It is submitted that the non-issuance of the terms of reference renders the entire project ineligible...,” the application said. “Prima-facie, the grant of environmental clearance does not appear to be consistent with law. Let the SEAC furnish a report as to why environmental clearance be not set aside. We also direct the ministry of environment, forest and climate change to examine the matter and furnish a detailed report about the legality of the procedure followed,” the NGT bench said in its December 17 order. It said that environmental clearance may not be given nod before these reports are filed. Most of the 36 illegal projects are located in Hamirpur, Banda, Jhalon, Kaushambi and Kanpur.
Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher with Centre for Policy Research, said there were many deliberate violations, but at times major lapses happened because of sudden changes in policy. “There was a proposal for cluster-level mining and impact assessment for it, but that notification was quashed by the NGT in December 2018...”