The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notice to 24 people for carrying out illegal sand mining activities in Uttarakhand's Haridwar district.
A bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar sought response from all of them after the counsel for Uttarakhand government told the tribunal that certain people were carrying on illegal sand mining. "We issue show cause notice to all the 24 persons who have been found by the state government to be carrying on illegal mining activity in district Haridwar," the bench said.
It also held that in terms of the provision of the Section 15 of the NGT Act, they are to be held responsible for causing damage to environment and ecology.
The state's counsel told the bench that it has suspended the licences of all the 24 people who were found to be carrying on illegal mining activity in the district.
The bench also issued notices to the chief secretaries of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Jammu Kashmir, Nagaland, Maharashtra, Telagana and Arunachal Pradesh to ensure that they are present on the next date of hearing.
"In the event of default, we will be compelled to issue bailable warrants against the chief secretaries of all these states," the bench said.
The tribunal had last year restrained sand mining without any licence or environmental clearance from river beds across the country on a plea filed by the National Green Tribunal Bar Association.
Widening the ambit of the plea, the bench had said its order would be applicable across the nation as the petition raises substantial environmental issues. Initially, the bench had restrained illegal sand mining on the beds and banks of rivers Yamuna, Ganga, Hindon, Chambal, Gomti, among others, but later modified its order saying the issue of illegally removing sand has nationwide implications.
The petition alleged that those who have opposed such sand mining, including field level officers, like suspended SDM Durga Sakhti Nagpal, have been victimised which is also apparent from various news reports. It also alleged that recently a man who raised his voice against the "powerful sand mafia" was killed in his home by few goons in broad daylight.
In its petition, the association had contended that "rampant illegal sand mining in the river beds of Yamuna, Ganga, Hindon, among others, without prior environmental clearance or in violation of the EC is being carried out and the same is affecting the integrity of the concerned river systems and flood plains". "The activity of sand mining is adversely affecting the ecosystem and the overall ecology of the area," the plea had said, adding the Supreme Court in a February 2012 order had taken note of adverse effects of sand mining.
The apex court had also held that any person carrying on sand mining on land which is less than five hectares, requires clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests or the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).