High Court refuses to budge on sand mining ban in Andhra Pradesh
Making it clear to the state government that it will not allow the circumvention of the direction given by the Supreme Court for protecting river beds from indiscriminate exploitation, the AP high court on Thursday refused to vacate the stay imposed on sand mining in the state.
This despite relentless efforts by the state to get the order vacated. "Just because it is uncomfortable for the state, it cannot be allowed to be diluted," the bench comprising Chief Justice Madan B Lokur and justice PV Sanjay Kumar said in its 36-page order.
As per the directive of the apex court, sand mining now requires proper assessment of environmental impact and also a prior nod from the Union forest and environment ministry. It was this directive that the HC bench declined to tinker with.
The bench, while hearing a public interest petition filed by some residents of Guntur district, had earlier stayed sand mining all over the state from April 1, 2012 and made it mandatory for the state to obtain prior permission from the court to allow sand mining on even a single hectare.
Chief Justice Lokur, who wrote the order, came down heavily on the state government for turning a blind eye to the issue, despite a serious environmental impact being caused by sand mining.
"Can we permit the degradation of the environment or the exploitation of the natural resources to such an extent where the concept of sustainable development becomes an impossibility?
"Should our future generations pay for our inaction? It is essential to ensure that there is no rampant or unregulated exploitation of natural resources" he said.
Referring to minister Galla Aruna Kumari's generosity towards one Narasimha Reddy, a sand contractor from Adilabad, the CJ said that statutory functionaries seemed to be turning a blind eye to illegal quarrying of sand instead of rigourously implementing the law.
It can be recalled that the court noticed the waiver of over Rs 1.5 crore dues awarded by the minister to the sand contractor. "It is unfortunate that such authorities (the minister in this case) are ignoring their quasi judicial obligations and shirking their responsibility," the CJ said.
The bench, in its order, further said: "We have seen in these cases that large stretches of riverbeds have been auctioned away by the state government for several years ignoring the environment impact assessment notification issued on September 14, 2006. In fact the counsel for a contractor submitted before us that some auctioned reaches extend up to about 100 hectares. We have been given absolutely no explanation for this wanton exploitation. The state in all likelihood would continue to ignore the notification and would go ahead with its attitude. Therefore, it became necessary for us to step in."
The bench called for a greater degree of transparency both in notifying reaches and about credentials of the contractors who bag such auctions. "The reports of the ground water department are extremely perfunctory and they do not suggest the impact of sand quarrying on the environment or on the bio-diversity nor would they suggest any safeguards to minimize damage," the bench said. The enormous gap between the upset price and the auctioned price of the sand reaches is also inexplicable, the bench said.