Taking cognizance of unlawful sand mining activities, the National Green Tribunal (NGT)’s eastern zone bench in Kolkata has directed the Odisha State Pollution Control Board to levy Rs one crore environment compensation penalty on a sand mine operator, over illegal sand mining in Subarnarekha river bed in Odisha’s Balasore district.
“In an interim measure, we direct the respondent (sand quarry operator) to deposit rupees one crore towards environmental compensation to Odisha PCB within a period of one month till final computation of Environmental Compensation is carried out by SEIAA, Odisha. The amount shall be utilized for restoration of the damaged embankment of Subarnarekha River and for other damages caused to the river”, the NGT ruled.
“The State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), Odisha is being directed to re-determine Environmental Compensation for illegal extraction of sand from 2017 to 2021 with the help of satellite imagery”, the NGT had ordered in a judgment pronounced on 13 October.
The petition filed by Saral Kumar Parida alleging the sand quarry operation is carrying out illegal mining of sand in the Subarnarekha River, Benapur-Mouza, Basta Tehsil of Balasore District, in violation of the Mining Plan, Environmental Clearance conditions, Consent to Operate conditions, Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guideline 2016 and Enforcement and Monitoring Guidelines for Sand Mining, 2020, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification as well as Supreme Court Orders.
“The determination of Environmental Compensation shall be completed by the SEIAA, Odisha, within two months and once Environmental Compensation is determined due notice of the same shall be given to the respondent inviting its objections, if any, to such computation and after considering the representation submitted by the respondent, the SEIAA, Odisha, shall determine the final Environmental Compensation against the Respondent pointing out the time limit within which the same has to be deposited by the Respondent”, the NGT eastern zone branch directed.
However, the bench further directed the Collector & District Magistrate, Balasore to lodge F.I.R. against the Tahasildar, Basta who was the Tahasildar during the period 2017 to 2021 during which the illegal extraction of sand has occurred according to the SEIAA, Odisha and such F.I.R. shall thereafter be carried to its logical conclusion. The Collector & District Magistrate were also asked to initiate departmental proceedings against the concerned Tahasildars in accordance with law.
The NGT also directed the SEIAA, Odisha and District Magistrate, Balasore to furnish a compliance report by way of affidavits by 31 January 2023.