The Uttar Pradesh government today informed the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that it has registered FIRs against several persons engaged in large-scale illegal mining of sand and its removal from river Yamuna and seized their vehicles and heavy machinery.
The bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar was informed that the state mining department has registered nine FIRs against 18 individuals who were carrying out illegal and indiscriminate mining of sand in Gautam Budh Nagar district.
The tribunal issued notices to all the 18 individuals directing them to be present before it on the next date of hearing, and show cause as to why they should not be punished in accordance with law as well as made to pay compensation for damaging and degrading the environment by interfering with the river flow through their illegal activities.
The bench also directed all states and Union territories to formulate a uniform policy for checking illegal mining of sand and removal of sand across the country.
Observing that the assistance of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) would be material in framing such a policy, the bench directed the MoEF to place before it complete and comprehensive guidelines for controlling and preventing illegal and indiscriminate mining on river beds.
The MoEF was directed to prepare the guidelines and place them before the bench by the next date of hearing.
Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh government was also directed to submit an action taken report regarding a submission made by senior advocate Raj Panjwani, appearing for the petitioner-NGT Bar Association, that of the over two lakh cubic meter of sand seized by the mining department till date, 80 per cent has been stolen.
This submission was admitted by the state authorities which said an FIR regarding the same has already been registered with police on August 13-14.
Now, the Uttar Pradesh government has to inform the bench about the action taken in the matter till date and how far the investigation into the theft case has progressed.
"Tell us what investigation has been done till date from August 13? No one can hide that amount of sand in a locker," the bench told the SSP of Gautam Budh Nagar district who was present before it.
"Keeping in view MoEF report and undisputed submission of parties that illegal mining of sand is going on and that it causes irretrievable damage to the environment and considerable financial loss to the states concerned, it is reiterated that all the district authorities concerned will fully implement the tribunal's order," the tribunal also said.
Meanwhile, the MoEF submitted before the bench that a panel constituted by it, after the NGT's August 5 order banning illegal sand mining across the nation, had visited several sites along river Yamuna in Gautam Budh Nagar where it found signs of "rampant, unscientific and illegal mining without any environmental clearance".
The panel in its report also said it had found huge stocks of sand lying around at these sites but had no information about who were carrying these out.
The Uttar Pradesh government also submitted its status report on action it has taken so far since the tribunal had made it clear that officials of the state will be in trouble if they do not show "definitive results" of what it has done so far pursuant to the NGT's August 5 order banning illegal mining of sand across the nation.
The state government also submitted that a large number of cases have been registered this year against persons carrying out illegal and indiscriminate mining of sand.
Meanwhile, a plea to intervene in the matter was filed by an individual engaged in sand mining in Rajasthan and seeking directions to the state government to implement Rajasthan Minor Mineral Concession Rules immediately.
The NGT had on August 5 banned sand mining without clearance in the beds and banks of rivers across the country and issued notices to the states seeking their replies on a petition contending that rampant illegal mining and transportation of lakhs of tonnes of sand are being carried out every year, causing loss of lakhs of crores of rupees to the state exchequer.
Not satisfied with the report furnished by the Uttar Pradesh government, the bench had on August 23 warned the state that if it does not show that it "means business" with regard to implementation of ban on sand mining as well as taking action against the perpetrators, its officials "will have a tough time".