Remain vigilant on illegal sand, silt mining: HC to govt

Meghalaya High Court. (ST file Photo)

SHILLONG, April 4: Observing that large-scale and uncontrolled mining of riverbed sand results in the rivers being destroyed altogether apart from the pollution caused to the water by the heavy vehicles brought by the licensees, the full bench of the High Court of Meghalaya on Monday directed the state to be vigilant on how sand and silt, which have to be considered as minor minerals, are allowed to be mined from the riverbeds.
The court took cognizance of a report published by The Shillong Times on March 14, 2022 exposing rampant illegal stone quarrying in Garo Hills region and directed the government to file another affidavit indicating the measures taken to ensure that the licensees adhere to the terms thereof and that there is no illegal mining of sand or silt from the riverbeds or elsewhere without obtaining permission thereof.
The Court also asked the state to respond to the publication in The Shillong Times of March 14, 2022 that in the Garo Hills area alone there are more than 500 spots where rampant illegal stone quarrying goes on without the local officials or the state administration being vigilant or taking any steps in such regard.
“The Amicus Curiae has produced a copy of the newspaper report which should be retained with the papers. The state should treat the news article as indicative and not exhaustive and report on such aspect on the adjourned date,” the order added.
Pointing out that the matter has been referred to the full bench since the matter pertaining to rampant illegal mining in the state has been referred to such bench, the court said the matter will henceforth be considered in respect of minor minerals, since there is an exclusive matter pertaining to illegal coal mining.
The court took note of the submission by the Amicus Curiae that the state had indicated in its status report filed in February, 2022 that a single-window facility has been introduced so that the licenses for minor minerals can be obtained without much difficulty and upon a nodal body considering the propriety and desirability thereof.
“One of the key areas where the state has to be vigilant is in how sand and silt, which have to be considered as minor minerals are allowed to be mined from the riverbeds,” the order said.
According to the court, it is normal for licensees to obtain permission over a much smaller area and in respect of a limited quantum to exploit a much larger area and mine much in excess of the quantum contemplated at the time of the grant of license.
“The state will also do well to indicate the environmental impact assessment undertaken prior to the issuance of any license by way of a concession for minor minerals,” the order said.
The next hearing has been fixed on April 19.