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Tribunal stays notification over mineral mining green clearances

Panaji: In a setback to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has stayed the ministry’s January 2016 notification that allowed the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) and District Expert Appraisal Committees (DEACs) to undertake environment assessment and grant environment clearances for minor mineral mining including sand
mining.A three-member bench, headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, passed the judgment and noted that officers of the District Expert Appraisal Committees (DEACs) have no expertise or scientific knowledge to assess environmental implications.

The tribunal directed the environment ministry to issue a fresh notification to comply with its order passed on September 13 and furnish a compliance report on or before December 31, 2018, failing which, it said, it might have to take coercive measures.

It said that the notification issued by the ministry was inconsistent with the mandate of the Supreme Court’s directions passed in Deepak Kumar Vs State of Haryana and Others, requiring proper environmental clearance before the grant of lease of minor minerals, including sand mining.

“The direction that ministry’s January 2016 notification should still be acted upon is clearly illegal and in violation of judgement of this tribunal. We also make it clear that till a fresh notification is issued by the union ministry, the said notification will not be acted upon. The direction will apply to all the state environment impact assessment authorities/state governments,” the NGT held, while asking for the compliance report to be placed before it on
January 14.

The bench, also consisting of Judicial Member K Ramakrishna and expert member Dr Nagin Nanda, held further that the notifications permitting the DEACs to make assessments were also not consistent with the Sustainable Sand Mining Guidelines, 2016.

The green court passed the order on an execution Application filed by Vikrant Tongad, an environmental activist, who alleged non-compliance of the tribunal’s judgment of September 13, 2018. The petitioner claimed that the notifications issued by the Environment Ministry on January 15, 2016, and, subsequently, on January 20, 2016, diluted the requirement of environmental impact assessment and appraisal of mining of minor minerals. [NT]

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