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Madhya Pradesh High Court bans "illegal" sand mining in Narmada Project area

By Our Representative
The Jabalpur bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has asked the Madhya Pradesh (MP) government to immediately stop "illegal sand mining in Sardar Sarovar areas", calling the MP government-sponsored mining leases of lands vested in the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) a “colourable exercise” of power. The court directed the MP government, the State Pollution Control Board and the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, to file "detailed replies" by May 12.
The bench, comprising Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice Moolchand Garg directed a complete stay on all sand mining operations in the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP)-affected areas in the state and called upon the MP government to furnish complete details regarding the mining activities in the project areas."
A Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) statement issued in the wake of the order said, "The court expressed its serious dissatisfaction at the refusal of the state to furnish the requisite details and categorically ordered that there shall be no further sand mining in the SSP-affected areas, until satisfactory information is filed in terms of the previous orders."
"The court found force in the contentions of the petitioners, NBA, and noted that the Mining Department could not have granted leases of lands in the SSP areas, once the same have vested in the NVDA and if the same has happened, it is in colourable exercise of power by the concerned authorities", the NBA said.
According to NBA, on March 26, 2015, Chief Justice AM Khanvilkar issued a specific directive to the collectors of all the concerned districts to file affidavit and provide in tabular form the names of lessees, date on which lease permission was granted and date on which the land in respect of which lease has been granted, has been vested in the NVDA."
"Despite being granted two extensions, the MP government failed to provide the information with details as sought for by the court. On April 22, 2015, the MP government was directed to file the reply within three days, failing which the court threatened that all sand mining would be stayed. Despite the court’s severe warning and specific directives, the utter non-compliance of the state came a shock to the court."
The NBA further said, "Although a so-called Compliance Report was filed on the April 25 with regard to sand mining leases in the Badwani and Dhar districts, the same did not contain, rather concealed, the details sought, i.e. when were the lands in question were transferred to the NVDA, names of lessees and dates of leases."
"Pleading for the petitioners, NBA and SSP oustees affected by the mining activities, Medha Patkar urged the court to forthwith stop all the mining activities in the areas, since the same is in gross violation of the directives issued by the Supreme Court, the National Green Tribunal and also constitutes a criminal offence under the Penal Code", it said.
"The order was passed in a major PIL filed against the large-scale, reckless sand mining in the Narmada valley, especially the SSP submergence and catchment areas, leading to adverse impacts on the riverine ecology, ground water, reservoir fish and causing major revenue losses to the state exchequer, crores of corruption", the NBA alleged.

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