Bhubaneswar: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has questioned the decision of the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) of granting consent to sand mine operators to mine sand from the Subarnarekha river in excess of what was allowed in the environment clearance.
A bench of the NGT comprising judicial member B Amit Sthalekar and expert member Saibal Dasgupta observed that the consent to operate was granted for 20,000 CM3 by the PCB considering the principle of sustainable sand mining.
However, the tribunal found that as per the environmental clearance granted by the SEIAA in December 2017, mineable reserved are 20,000 CM3 of sand against the environment clearance for only 5,000 CM3 annually with the specific condition that the annual extraction of sand shall not exceed 5,000 CM3 allowing for replenishment of 25 per cent of the mineable reserve over the lease period.
“The question is how the consent to operate was granted by the Odisha State Pollution Control Board for 20,000 Cm3 when the environment clearance was only for 5,000 CM3 per annum,” the tribunal observed.
Earlier, the state PCB had filed an affidavit stating that the sand miners had extracted 19,995 CM3 of sand in excess of the permissible quantity of 30,000 CM3 and penalty for the excess mining of sand for this period was realised by the tehsildar of Jaleswar from the sand miners.
Significantly, the tribunal also questioned the calculation of the PCB that only 19,995 cm3 of sand has illegally been mined and that recovery has been made by the tehsildar only for this excess amount of 19,995 CM3 of sand.
“It appears from the affidavit filed by the state PCB that the actual amount of sand mined in the past one-and-a-half year is 49,995 CM3. Then the excess amount of sand mined would be 42,495 CM3 as per the condition granted in the environmental clearance and not 19,995 CM3,” the tribunal held.
The NGT asked SEIAA to file an affidavit within four weeks answering the queries of the tribunal and responding to the averments made in the additional affidavit of the state PCB.
It may be mentioned here that the tribunal’s order came following an application filed by Laxmidhar Palai alleging irregularities and violations of pollution norms by the sand mining operators in Subarnarekha river in Jaleswar tehsil.