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Tapping technique to check for minor mineral looting

India has greatly underestimated the problem of illegal mining that damages the environment and causes loss of revenue

India has greatly underestimated the problem of illegal mining that damages the environment and causes loss of revenue

As the pace of development picks up, India’s demand for trace minerals such as sand and gravel has surpassed 60 million tonnes. This also makes it her second largest extractive industry on the planet, after water. However, although some related frauds have been uncovered across the country as a result of increased legislation and oversight of mining of major minerals, the reality is that illegal mining of minor minerals is rampant and unabated. You often come across gravel being removed from farmland and government fallow land near major highways and construction projects. Transport such gravel from licensed quarries.

regulatory issues

Unlike major minerals, regulatory and administrative powers to formulate rules, regulate usage rates, mineral concessions, enforcement, etc., are vested exclusively in state governments.

The 1994 and 2006 Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notices required environmental clearances for mining over 5 hectares. However, after recognizing the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change report on the environmental aspects of trace mineral quarrying (2010), the Supreme Court of India has asked all state governments to make necessary changes to the regulatory framework for trace minerals. instructed to add Mining less than 5 hectares requires an environmental clearance. As a result, the EIA was amended in 2016 to require environmental clearance for mining in areas less than 5 hectares containing trace minerals. The amendment also provided for the establishment of a District Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (EIAA) and a District Expert Assessment Committee (EAC).

However, state-by-state reviews of the EAC and EIAA in major industrialized countries such as Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu found that these authorities reviewed more than 50 project proposals in a single day, indicating that the state level The refusal rate is only 1%. Does this raise the pertinent question of whether the introduction of clearance alone can end the fraudulent mining of minor minerals? It demonstrates the need for a more technology-driven enforcement approach.

The problem of illegal mining of trace minerals is often underestimated and contributes to undesirable environmental impacts. There are numerous cases of illegal mining of dolomite, marble and sand throughout the state. For example, 28.92 million tonnes of limestone are illegally mined in the Konanki Limestone Quarry in Andhra Pradesh alone. But the constant pace of sand mining poses serious concerns.

Agency Observation

The United Nations Environment Program ranked India and China among the top two countries where illegal sand mining led to widespread environmental degradation in 2019. Nevertheless, there is no comprehensive assessment to assess the scale of sand mining in India. Nonetheless, regional studies such as those by the Center for Science and Environment of the Yamuna Riverbed in Uttar Pradesh show that increased demand for soil severely impacts soil formation and soil-holding capacity of land, leading to loss of marine life. Observing the connection. Increased frequency of floods, droughts and even worsening water quality. Such influences are also seen in the riverbeds of the Godavari, Narmada and Mahanadi basins. Sand mining reduced the masir fish population by 76% of his population between 1963 and 2015, as noted in a study of the Narmada River Basin.

It’s not just environmental damage. Illegal mining causes huge losses to the national coffers. According to estimates, UP is losing revenue from his 70% of mining activity as only 30% of his area is legally mined. Similarly, from 2016 to 2017, the absence of royalties caused a loss of Rs.70 crore in Bihar, non-payment of various taxes due to unregulated mining, Rs.100 crore in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. suffered a loss of Rs.6 crore.

Judicial Orders, State Responses

Judicial orders are often ignored by state governments. For example, the state of Uttar Pradesh (where illegal sand mining poses serious dangers) failed to issue an order on compensation for illegal sand mining, according to a report by the National Environmental Court (NGT) Oversight Board. or only partially complied. Such lax compliance is also found in states such as West Bengal, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

A statewide review of the reasons behind non-compliance found dysfunctional governance due to weak institutions, inadequate state resources to ensure implementation, inadequate drafting of regulatory provisions, and inadequate oversight and evaluation. mechanism, and excessive litigation that weakens the state’s administrative capacity. .

Protecting trace minerals requires investment in production and consumption measurements, as well as monitoring and planning tools. To do that, we need to use technology to provide sustainable solutions.

power of technology

Satellite imagery can also be used to monitor extraction yields and confirm mining processes. For past violations, too, the NGT and authorities should obtain satellite photos from the past 10 to 15 years to show indisputably how dirt, gravel, or small dunes have disappeared in the area. I can. Recently, NGT directed several states to use satellite imagery to monitor the amount of sand extracted and transported from riverbeds. The well-planned implementation of these directives has resulted in increased revenues from mining of minor minerals in all these states.

Additionally, drones, Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain technology can be leveraged to monitor mechanisms using global positioning systems, radar, and radio frequency (RF) locators. State governments such as Gujarat and judicial authorities such as the Madras High Court have adopted some of these techniques to check illegal sand mining.

Amar Patnaik is Rajya Sabha, Member of Parliament from Odisha. A former Court of Auditors of India (CAG) official and academic, he now practices law.Views expressed are personal