Bhubaneswar/Balasore: The eastern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), in its latest interim order in a case of illegal sand mining along Subarnerekha river in Balasore district, has found loopholes in the grant of permissions to an alleged erring miner.
During the hearing on allegations of sand mining in excess of what has been permitted, the bench found that contradictory approvals were given by the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OPCB) and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
The NGT, in its order, said that while the miner was given environmental clearance for only 5,000 cm3 area, the Consent to Operate by the Odisha Pollution Control Board was given for mining 20,000 cm3.
“The question is how the Consent to Operate was granted by the Odisha State Pollution Control Board for 20,000 cm3 when the Environmental Clearance was only for 5,000 cm3 per annum,” the order said.
Hinting at another irregularity in the case, the tribunal said, “Another question before this tribunal is that when the environmental clearance granted by the SEIAA, Odisha, is only for extraction of 5,000 cm3 sand annually, how the State Pollution Control Board calculated that only 19,995 cm3 of sand was illegally mined. Moreover, recovery has been made by the tehsildar only for this excess amount of 19,995 cm3 of sand.”
The NGT has asked the different stakeholders such as SEIAA, OPCB and others to file their responses regarding the matter to clarify their respective stands on the issue.
The petitioner in the case, Laxmidhar Palai, had earlier moved the NGT alleging excessive sand mining along Subarnarekha river in Jaleswar area of the district.
The petitioner had alleged threat to the natural flow of river and threat to the embankment to the river from the alleged illegal sand mining in the area.
The NGT in its order has now also asked the Balasore Irrigation Division to report on the steps taken towards river restoration works.
“We, therefore, direct the Executive Engineer, Balasore Irrigation Division, Odisha to file his personal affidavit before the next date of listing, stating as to what action has been taken for restoration of the embankment and removal of the wooden bridge to ensure free flow of river water,” the NGT order said.