States & UTs

    Illegal Mining Near Son In UP: NGT Slaps Rs 15.96 Cr Fine On 2 Private Firms

    The Hawk
    May26/ 2023


    New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed a fine of Rs 15.96 crore on two private firms engaged in mining activities near river Son in Sonbhadra district of Uttar Pradesh.

    The tribunal also directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), along with the state ministries of environment and forest in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, to look into the question of declaring parts of river Son, running in both states, as ‘Son Ghadiyal Wildlife Sanctuary’ in accordance with law within three months. The NGT was hearing a matter regarding the illegal mining of sand and morrum (a minor mineral derived from the weathering and disintegration of granitic rocks) near Son in the Sonbhadra district.

    The tribunal noted that the issue pertained to such illegal mining near Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) and protected reserved forests, in violation of various conditions of environmental clearance (EC), consent orders and environmental laws, directly causing damage to the environment and aquatic ecology, particularly the flora and fauna in the area. Noting the evidence before it, a bench of judicial member Justice Sudhir Agarwal and expert member A Senthil Vel said two proprietorship firms, Sudhakar Pandey and Associates (respondent no. 14) along with New India Minerals (respondent no. 15) had violated environmental laws and norms in carrying out mining activities.

    Both firms were granted permits for mining morrum in Agori Khas village of Obra tehsil in the district, the bench noted.

    "...they (respondents 14 and 15) are guilty of carrying out illegal mining beyond the lease area... The next violation mining by the leaseholder in the mainstream of the river,” the bench said.

    As illegal mining had caused serious damage to aquatic ecology and the riverine regime, both had to pay environmental compensation on the 'Polluter Pays' principle. For EC violations, they were also liable for the initiation of criminal proceedings, the bench said.

    It said that considering the entire facts and circumstances of the cases, a direction is given to the authorities concerned to look into the question of declaring parts of river Son, running in the states of UP and Bihar, as 'Son Ghadiyal Wildlife Sanctuary.'

    "Ministries of environment and forest in the states of UP and Bihar and MoEF&CC shall consider the matter of declaration of part of river Son running in the states of UP and Bihar as Wildlife Sanctuary and ESZ for protection of ghadials (freshwater crocodiles) etc. in Son and would take necessary, remedial and appropriate action within three months," the tribunal said. It said as the Environment (Protection) Act is included in the schedule of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and both respondents had committed an offence under the EP Act, the Directorate of Enforcement could look into these aspects and take further action. Regarding the quantum of compensation, it directed Sudhakar Pandey and associates and New India Minerals to pay a compensation of Rs 8.16 crore and Rs 7.8 crore, respectively to the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) by depositing 40 per cent of the amount within one month and the remaining amount in two equal instalments within two months.

         Forming a joint committee comprising representatives of the UP’s State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, the state's Ministry of Environment and Forest, UPPCB, and District Magistrate, Sonbhadra, the green tribunal directed it to revisit all mining leases in the Son river bed in Sonbhadra district and take appropriate decision or action within three months.

         It said till the committee took a decision, no further mining in the riverbed is allowed. —PTI