Supreme Court: In the case where the National Green Tribunal had directed that unless the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC) and the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) grants approval to the District Survey Report (DSR) for the purpose of mining of sand, the same cannot be carried out in the State of Bihar, the bench of L. Nageswara Rao, Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai, JJ has modified the said order and has allowed the State to continue with legal mining activities through Bihar State Mining Corporation with certain necessary arrangements.

“… until the DSRs are finalized and granted approval by SEAC and SEIAA, it is appropriate that certain necessary arrangements are permitted so that the State can continue with legal mining activities. This apart from preventing illegal mining activities, would also ensure that the public exchequer is not deprived of its share in legalized mining.”

Understanding the need for a balanced approach of sustainable development ensuring environmental safeguards, the Court noticed that,

“…it also cannot be ignored that when legal mining is banned, it gives rise to mushroom growth of illegal mining, resulting into clashes between sand mafias, criminalization and at times, loss of human lives. It also cannot be disputed that sand is required for construction of public infrastructural projects as well as public and private construction activities. A total ban on legal mining, apart from giving rise to illegal mining, also causes huge loss to the public exchequer.”

Preparation of DSRs as per Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining, 2020

In accordance with the Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining, 2020,

  • the DSR is required to be prepared before the auction/e-auction/grant of mining lease by Mining Department or Department dealing with mining activity in the respective States.
  • the potential site for mining having its impact on the forest, protected area, habitation and bridges should be avoided. For this, a sub-divisional committee is required to be formed which, after the site visit, is required to decide regarding the suitability of the sites for mining.
  • the sub-divisional committee is further required to record its reasons for selecting the mining lease in the patta land. Various details are required to be given in the annexures appended to the said policy.

Preparation of DSRs through Private consultants – Unnecessary

When the 2020 guidelines as well as the notification issued by MoEF and CC of 2016 itself provide for constitution of sub-divisional committees comprising of the officers of the State Government from various Departments for identification of the potential sites for mining, there would be no necessity of the DSRs being prepared through private consultants as directed by the Tribunal in the impugned order.

The sub-divisional committee consists of various officers from Revenue Department, Irrigation   Department, State Pollution Control Board, Forest Department and Geology Mining Department of the State Government who are better equipped to visit the sites and prepare the draft DSR for the concerned district.

“The advent of modern technology, various technological gadgets like Drones and satellite imaging etc. can be used for identification of the potential sites and preparation of the DSR and also to check misuse and unauthorized mining.”

Apart from that, preparation of DSR through private consultants would also unnecessarily burden the public exchequer.

Directions

(i) The exercise of preparation of DSR for the purpose of mining in the State of Bihar in all the districts shall be undertaken afresh. The draft DSRs shall be prepared by the sub-divisional committees   consisting of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Officers from Irrigation Department, State Pollution Control Board or Committee, Forest Department, Geological or mining officer. The same shall be prepared by undertaking site visits and also by using modern technology. The said draft DSRs shall be prepared   within a period of 6 weeks from the date of this order. After the draft DSRs are prepared, the District Magistrate of the concerned District shall forward the same for examination and evaluation by the SEAC.   The same shall be examined by the SEAC within a period of 6 weeks and its report shall be forwarded to the SEIAA within the aforesaid period of 6 weeks from the receipt of it. The SEIAA will thereafter consider the grant of approval to such DSRs within a period of 6 weeks from the receipt thereon;

(ii) While preparing DSRs and the appraisal thereof by SEAC and SEIAA, it should be ensured that a strict adherence to the procedure and parameters laid down in the policy of January 2020 should be followed;

(iii) Until further orders, the State Government can carry on mining activities through Bihar State Mining Corporation for which it may employ the services of the contractors. However, while doing so, the State Government shall ensure that all environmental concerns are taken care of and no damage is caused to the environment.

[State of Bihar v. Pawan Kumar, CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 3661­3662 OF 2020, order dated 12.11.2021]


Counsels:

For State: Senior Advocate Atmaram Nadkarni

For applicant: Senior Advocate P.S. Patwalia

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