New Delhi, Sept 24: The National Green Tribunal today reserved its verdict on Madhya Pradesh's plea for modification of its order banning sand mining in river beds across the country to the extent that district environment committees be allowed to grant clearance for removing sand.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar will pronounce later its decision on whether the state government's rules can permit district environmental committees to grant clearance for sand mining on land that measures five hectares or less, when according to central law this power is with the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
The NGT's order when passed would assume significance since some states, including Madhya Pradesh, have amended their Minor Mineral Rules to the extent that clearance for sand mining on land measuring five hectares or less is granted by the district environment committees.
The state government said it had brought about the change after the Supreme Court had directed that environment clearance is necessary for removing sand from lands which measures five hectares or less.
Madhya Pradesh's plea was opposed by senior advocate Raj Panjwani, appearing for petitioner NGT Bar Association, who contended that state law cannot prevail over central law. According to a 2006 Central government notification, clearance for sand mining on larger pieces of land is granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, while in the case of smaller ones (five hectares or less) the decision is taken by the SEIAA.
"Can you enact a law which would be in conflict with central law?" is the query which the NGT had put to Madhya Pradesh government on the last date of hearing.
The state government has contended that the apex court while directing that environment clearance is mandatory for sand mining on land measuring five hectares or less, had also said the procedure of granting clearance be simplified and in this regard they had modified their Minor Mineral Rules to grant power to district environmental committees to approve removal of sand from smaller plots.
The tribunal was hearing the state government's plea for modification of the bench's August 5 order by which it had banned sand mining in rivers across the country.