– Dr.Rajendra Singh
My heart pained when I saw hardly any , in media on yesterday’s Supreme Court Judgement on illegal sand mining in Krishna river by Hon’ble Justice Chandradchud.
Indeed it’s a rejection of State of Andhra Pradesh’s’s plea to waive Rs 100 Crore penalty imposed and to commence the sand mining. Supreme Court rejected both and upheld the law. Since there is a technical hitch that State of AP is not heard before imposing penalty, Justice Chandradchud extended 1 month time to 3 months and in the meantime AP can approach the National Green Tribunal.
Like we need our lungs for our survival, rivers need sand for their survival. We need healthy rivers to save the life on earth. Therefore, there is a need for all of us to protest against removal of sand (lungs) from the river to save our own lives. Our health is directly linked with the health of the rivers.. I beg everyone to protect rivers and do not allow sand mining.w
I wish to bring the facts of this case before the media and urge media with folded hands to kindly take this message to the public to protect our rivers, our lifeline. Now we need to protect our natural resources not only from the looters but also from the ruling Governments, as Governments are patronising Sand mafia for money.
Perhaps you are aware that we had organized a National Water Convention for a Drought Free India in Bijapur in Sept 2017 where 101 teams from 101 rivers in India participated. As a part of this program I have participated in Krishna Nadhi Parirakshan Yatra (from Jor to Hamsaladeevi) conducted by our National Convenor Mr. Bolisetty Satyanarayana, Prof Vikram Soni & Mr. Gandhi and others.
There was an attack on us by the sand mafia comprising representatives of the local government representatives and it was a sort of State sponsored terror, when we are looking at the illegal sand mining locations. We have notified this attack on us and about illegal sand mining with heavy machines & dredggers to local police, Director Genral of Police of AP, State & National Human Rights Commissions, Prime Minister’s Office, President’s Office, Ministry of Environment and Forest, and NGT in writing, signed by myself, Prof Soni, Mr. Bolisetty Satya & Mr. Anumolu Gandhi.
Nothing had happened for several months. Finally to our luck NGT took up our letter as a suo moto case under appeal OA No. 935/2018 and asked for an enquiry, formed a committee comprising Central Pollution Control Board, State Pollution Control Board & Department of Mines & Geology. The team visited the 8 locations near Hon’ble AP Chief Minister’s house on 17th and 18th January and submitted a detailed report with authentic evidences of illegal sand mining with dredgers digging sand from 25′ and above where as max permissable limit is 10′, this report was signed by Environmental Engineer, AP PCB, Vijayawada, Sr Environmental Engineer, CPCB, Bengaluru, & Joint Chief Environmental Engineer, AP PCB Lr. No. 18/APPCB/Legal?NGT Delhi/2018- dated 21.01.2019.
Based on this clear report with concrete evidences such as pictures with GPS locations and rampant mining with >25’deep dredging (which was prohibited by Supreme Court) is happening in eight locations namely Penumaka, Venkatapalem, Uddandarayunipalem, Lingalayapem, Rayapudi, Surayapalem, Guntupalli & Ibrahimpatnam (Ferri). NGT in its interim order datef 04.04.2019 said that “Pending further consideration in the light of reports from CPCB and the Chief Secretary, Andhra Pradesh, we direct the State of Andhra Pradesh to deposit an interim amount of Rs. 100 Crores within one month from today which may be recovered from the polluters and the persons responsible for illegal mining or the colluding erring officers. Interest @12% will accrue after one month. The amount is to be spent for restoration of the environment.”
Based on the interim order dated 04.04.2019, AP Government was kind enough to stop all mining activities in all 8 locations with immediate effect.
However, the sand contractor filed WP. No. 5989/2019. The High Court pushed the matter after the vacation without giving any relief sought by the contractor with regards to penalty or commencement of mining work.
The State of AP has approached Supreme Court to squash the interim order wide CA. No. 4490/2019 was heard by Justice DY. Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on 09.05.2019.
Advocate Ganguli appearing on behalf of State of Andhra Pradesh submitted that this was a case of a letter petition, wherein suo moto cognizance has been taken by NGT and imposed fine of an interim amount of Rs. 100 crores that was based on the report submitted by the Central Pollution Control Board, had been passed without hearing the State. Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan and Adv. Sanjay Upadhyay said that the Joint Inspection as directed by the Tribunal was carried out by the CPCB, APPCB and Mines Department, thus the State had been given an opportunity to be heard as the State PCB along with the Department of Mines had been represented before the Tribunal. Further, it was submitted by Mr. Upadhyay that the imposition of Rs. 100 Crore fine was merely an interim measure and may be allowed to subsist, as the matter was still pending final adjudication and at the outset, Justice Chandradchud expressed his concern over the “Free Sand Mining Policy” in the State of Andhra Pradesh and posed serious questions regarding the policy, the lack of the need for environmental clearances and the substantial quantity of the sand being mined. Justice Chandrachud directed the State of AP to approach and appeal before NGT in two weeks and differed the payment of Rs. 100 Crore for a period of 8 weeks and later allowed 3 months to pay the penalty.
I hope now if the State of AP goes to the National Green Tribunal for waiver of Rs. 100 Crore initial penalty, they should be penalised with a minimum amount of Rs. 500 Crore as the value of the sand looted in the last one year itself is worth more than Rs. 10,000 Crores. Unfortunately, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh himself lives inside the river in a building which was illegally constructed at the river conservation zone and is destroying the floodplains and encouraging sand mafia to loot the sand. On the other side he gives lectures that he is building blue and green city. The fact is that he is reducing the Blue and Green that exist in capital area from 98% to 30%. This summer already Amaravati Capital City area has touched 47°C and if you make more concrete it will only make Guntur more hotter non-livable city.
I earnestly request public of Andhra Pradesh to kindly protect the sand in the river to keep the river alive and also to increase the ground water table.
*The writer is a renowned water conservationist and winner of Magsaysay Award and Stockholm Water Prize