Biodiversity, Environmental Impact Assessments, Land Use, Polluter Pays, Permits, Precaution, Contract, Inspections, Damages, Standing
The Government of Haryana issued a number of auction notices for mining of minor minerals, sand and gravel quarries of an area not exceeding 4.5 hectares as well as auction notices for areas exceeding 5 hectares for quarrying of minor minerals, road metals, stone mines etc, with certain restrictons on quarrying in the river beds of Yamuna, Tangri, Markanda, Ghaggar, Krishnavat basin, Dohan basin, etc. As per the EIA 2006 notifcaton, mining leases for minor minerals on less than 5 hectares of land do not require any prior EIA clearance. The Court held that eases of minor minerals including their renewal for an area of less than five hectares be granted by the States/Union Territories only afer getng ‘environmental clearance’ from the MoEF. The Court observed that sand mining on either side of the rivers, upstream and in-stream, is one of the causes for environmental degradaton and also a threat to the biodiversity. While proposals for mining of major minerals typically undergo environment impact assessment and environmental clearance procedure, due atention had not been given to environmental aspects of mining of minor minerals. The Court also made note of the fact this lacuna had come to the notice of the MoEF which found that less attention was given to environmental aspects of mining of minor minerals since the area was small, but it was noticed that the collective impact in a partcular area over a period of time might be signifcant. The Supreme Court was of the view that all State Governments / Union Territories have to give due weight to the recommendatons of the MoEF in consultaton with all the State Governments and Union Territories. The Court also held that the Model Rules of 2010 issued by the Ministry of Mines are vital from the environmental, ecological and bio-diversity point of view and therefore the State Governments have to frame proper rules in accordance with the recommendatons, under Secton 15 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulaton) Act, 1957. The Court was of the considered view that it is highly necessary to have an efectve framework of mining plan which will take care of all environmental issues and also evolve a long term rational and sustainable use of natural resource base and also the bio-assessment protocol, which have to be given effect to, inculcating the spirit of Article 48A, Article 51A(g) read with Article 21 of the Constitution.