SRINAGAR: In order to control illegal Riverbed Mining (RBM) in Kashmir, particularly in the Shali Ganga stream in upper Budgam, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued a landmark 212-page judgement and banned the mining operations. It has asked the District administration to enforce the orders.
The ban came after a protracted legal battle in the case of Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat V/S J&K SEIAA and NKC Projects Pvt Ltd wherein the construction company undertaking the Srinagar Semi Ring Road project (M/S NKC Projects Ltd). It was the latter that had got the mining permissions to manage the raw material requirements for the ring road.
The NGT double bench of Justice Sudhir Aggarwal and Prof A Senthil Vel on Wednesday said that respondent number 4 (NKC Projects Pvt Ltd) is restrained from carrying on any mining activities and directed to the Jammu and Kashmir Pollution Control Board (PCB), JK Pollution Control Committee and District Magistrate Budgam to ensure compliance of the direction.
“J&K PCB shall also comply with the directions issued above with regard to determination of environmental compensation. Copy of this order be forwarded to State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority -SEIAA, J&K, J&K PCB and District Magistrate Budgam for information and necessary action,” reads the order
While exposing the company for using JCBs for illegal riverbed mining the NGT order said that by using heavy machines like JCBs for loading the boulders, the project proponents have admitted that they are using JCBs for mining activities.
“The above stand taken by PP is an admission of use of heavy machines for excavation. Once it is admitted that the boulders were such big sized, not capable of removal or uploading without the use of heavy machines like JCBs etc., it is difficult to conceive that the same could have been mined without use of heavy machines “ the NGT order further reads.
The NGT bench actually questioned the Counsel for Project Proponent that if mined boulders were so big sized that the same could not be loaded on the dumpers/trucks manually, how such boulders could have been mined from the mining area without the use of such machines.
“We did not receive any satisfactory reply and it is said that whatever is/was the factual position that has been stated in the reply of project proponent (PP). The violation of condition of EC by itself will not vitiate the EC but may cause penal action like cancellation of EC or cancellation of mining contract and/or imposition of environmental compensation and other remedial and punitive action as provided in law. Since it is within the competence of J&K PCB to take appropriate action in this regard, we direct J&K PCB to take appropriate action on this aspect “
The order further reads: “Impugned Environmental Clearances (ECs) dated 19.04.2022 are hereby set aside. PP/respondent 4 (NKC Projects) is restrained from carrying on any mining activities pursuant to impugned ECs. J&K PCB and District Magistrate Budgam shall ensure compliance of this direction. J&K PCB shall also comply with the directions issued above with regard to determination of environmental compensation. Copy of this order be forwarded to SEIAA, J&K; J&K PCB and District Magistrate Budgam for information and necessary action.”
When contacted, Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat who has filed the appeal before NGT against the Environmental Clearance (EC) given to NKC Projects said that he is happy that the rule of law has prevailed.
“I urge the Pollution Control Committee (PCB) and District Magistrate Budgam to implement the judgement in letter and spirit. The DC Budgam must also ensure no JCBs are used for riverbed mining in Doodh Ganga mining blocks 11 and 12 and illegal mining should be stopped in other rivers and streams of J&K” said Dr Raja Muzaffar
Pertinently NGT had earlier stayed the mining work in an interim order issued on August 13, 2022. The company had in fact went to the Supreme Court challenging the NGT’s interim order but the company didn’t get any relief from the apex court during the last three hearings.