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Replenishment study of riverbed sand must for sand mining in Uttar Pradesh: NGT

  • Category
    Ecology and Environment
  • Published
    23rd May, 2022

Overview

  • Geology and usage of sand
  • Provisions for Sand Mining in India
  • Impact of riverbed sand mining
  • Required measures for sustainable sand mining?

Context

National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed Uttar Pradesh government not to permit any sand mining before completion of replenishment studies for riverbed sand.

  • Such studies must be done by credible institutions, following due procedure, in accordance with Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining, 2020.

Background

  • A United Nations study calculates that humankind’s total consumption of sand—more than 40 billion tons a year—is now double the number of sediments being replenishednaturally on the Earth by the sum of the world’s rivers.
  • UNEP in its report ‘Sand and Sustainability’ highlighted that the demand for sand has increased three-fold over the last decades, driven by
    • shifting consumption patterns
    • growing populations
    • increasing urbanisation
    • rapid infrastructure development

Analysis

Understanding Geology and usage of sand

  • Sandis a granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral
  • Composition of sandis highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal settings is silica (silicon dioxide, or SiO2), usually in the form of quartz.
  • Sand is classified as a “minor mineral”, as per The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act).
  • Sand miningis the extraction of sand, mainly through an open pit (or sand pit) but sometimes mined from beaches and inland dunes or dredged from ocean and river beds.
  • The extracted sand can be used for various types of manufacturing, such as concrete used in the construction of buildings and other structures.
  • The use of sand for cement-making in industrial projects has generated significant demand in India.
  • The sand can also be used as an abrasive or can be mixed with saltand applied to icy roads to reduce the melting point of ice.

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Minor Minerals

  • The central government has the power to notify “minor minerals” under the MMDR Act, 1957.
  • Under the MMDR Act, the legal and administrative control over minor minerals vests with the State Governments, who have the powers to make rules to govern minor minerals.

Major Minerals

  • Major minerals are those specified in the first schedule appended in the MMDR Act 1957 and the common major minerals are Lignite, Coal, Uranium, iron ore, gold etc. It may be noted that there is no official definition for “major minerals” in the MMDR Act. Hence, whatever is not declared as a “minor mineral” may be treated as the major mineral.
  • The policy and legislation relating to the major minerals are dealt by the Ministry of Mines under the Union /Central Government.

Provisions for Sand Mining in India

  • As sand is a Minor Mineral, different State Governments have made different rules for awarding, regulating and administering the sand concessions.
  • To curb Illegal mining, there have been variousjudicial interventions by the Supreme Court (SC) and National Green Tribunal (NGT).
  • The National Green Tribunal in August 2013 passed an order banning sand mining without proper environment clearance.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has released “Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines 2016” to promote scientific mining of sand and encourage environmental friendly management practices.
  • Indian government’s Ministry of Mines has also developed a Mining Surveillance System (MSS)to use space technology for facilitating State governments in curbing illegal mining activities in the country.
  • UnderSections 120B read with Section 34 of Indian Penal Code, 1860, extraction of sand without a legal permit is a punishable offence. 

What is the impact of riverbed sand mining?

  • Environmental Impact
  • Alteration of Rivers: Excessive sand mining can alter the river bed, force the river to change course, erode banks and lead to flooding. It leads to deepening of rivers and estuaries, and the enlargement of river mouths and coastal inlets. It may also lead to saline-water intrusion from the nearby sea.
  • Damage River Biodiversity: In stream mining can have other costly effects beyond the immediate mine sites. Degraded stream habitats result in loss of fisheries productivity, biodiversity, and recreational potential.
  • Sand Mining in Chambal has impacted the population of Gharials (National Chambal Sanctuary has been established for their conservation), a critically endangered species. The mining hurts wildlife by removing basking and egg-laying habitat.
  • Alter Sediment Budget: As the amount of sand reaching Oceans changes, rivers are not able to replenish the sand on beaches and in deltas.
  • Lead to poor water quality: Increased riverbed and bank erosion increases suspended solids in the water at the excavation site and downstream. Suspended solids may adversely affect water users and aquatic ecosystems.
  • Socio-Economic Impacts
  • Worsen water scarcity
  • Threat to Coastal Communities
  • Damage Public and Private Property

What measures are needed for sustainable sand mining?

  • Strengthen Policy Framework
  • Focusing on alternatives to Sand
  • Reducing consumption of sand
  • Reducing the negative consequences of extraction

Conclusion

Sand and gravel represent the highest volume of raw material used on earth after water. Their use greatly exceeds natural renewal rates. Moreover, the amount being mined is increasing exponentially, mainly as a result of rapid economic growth. To sustain the economic growth in future, it becomes important that the resource is used judiciously.

PRACTICE QUESTION

Q1. Mindless unsustainable sand mining has become a major environmental problem. Discuss. Also examine the significance of replenishment study of riverbed sand.

Q2. Discuss the socio-economic effects of illegal sand mining. Highlight the measures taken by the government to ensure sustainable mining of sand.

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