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Construction is the second largest employment provider in the country, after agriculture. Just as human beings cannot survive without oxygen, modern construction too cannot be carried out without sand. However, India is facing sand shortage thanks to ban imposed on sand mining in several states following National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) restraint order.
Sand being a minor mineral, the regulation of grant of mineral concessions for minor minerals is, therefore, within the legislative and administrative domain of the state governments. As a result, laws relating sand mining varies from state to state. Only thing which is common in sand mining in almost every state is that it is controlled by mafias often with the blessings of politicians. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has issued Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines, 2016, which, inter-alia, addresses the issues relating to regulation of sand mining.
Illegal and unscientific riverbed sand mining has caused lot of ecological damage. Studies have shown that frequent flooding seen in several rivers in India is the result of rampant river sand mining undertaken by the greedy mafia. Several mangrove forests had been destroyed by illegal construction of storage docks, roads and other infrastructure to facilitate easy removal, storage and transfer of sand from the river.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) issued a restraint order against all sand mining activity being carried out across the country without environmental clearance. While passing the order, NGT reaffirmed the Supreme Court’s order which banned any kind of mining of minor minerals, including sand, without environmental clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests.
All these events have emphasised the need for uniform sand mining policy all over the country. After all, the government’s primary objective is to promote ease of doing business in the country. Today each state has a different policy for sand mining. For example, MP allows sand mining through e-licensing. Southern states allow import of sand from foreign countries. In Bihar and Rajasthan ban still continues.
A uniform sand mining policy would help to promote ease of doing business, ensure protection of environment and at the same time provide regular supply of sand at reasonable rates to the construction sector. The government should give a serious thought to this.