Guidelines laid down in Deepak Kumar v State of Haryana must be followed for desiltation of rivers: National Green Tribunal

The Supreme Court of India, in Deepak Kumar v State of Haryana laid down guidelines for conducting mining work to ensure there is no adverse effect on the environment and bio-diversity on the region. In the case of RELA v State of Andhra Pradesh [M.A. No. 152/2019], a bench of the National Green Tribunal consisting of Justice Adarsh Goel, Justice Sudhir Agarwal, Justice Sathyanarayanan, Justice Brijesh Sethi and Dr Nagin Nanda adjudged on 16th June 2020 that any kind of dredging or desiltation activity could be conducted by a state government only in consonance with these guidelines so as to ensure that the flora and fauna of the region are not affected.

The appellant, RELA contended that in the name of desiltation, illegal sand mining was taking place at numerous places in Telengana and in the Guntur District of Andhra Pradesh along the tributaries of Godavari and Krishna rivers. It was also contended by the appellant that the mining was taking place without the mandatory environmental clearances to provide sand to construction companies and that the illegally mined sand was being sold in Hyderabad for Rs. 45,000 per truckload. It was also alleged that government officials of Telangana had knowledge and involvement in the illegal mining and the role played by the sand mafia.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Telangana State Mineral Development Corporation (TSMDC) contended that the purpose of the desiltation was to even out the silt deposits which were concentrated on one side of the river bed and that the TSMDC’s inspection reports have shown that there has come no major long term impacts or damage to the environment caused by the desiltation process carried out. The authorities also agreed to re-ascertain the levels of silt deposits on the river body after any kind of desiltation activity to ensure there is no foul play.

The National Green Tribunal noted in this case that the allegations of mafia activity and illegal distribution of sand is beyond the jurisdiction of this tribunal and would best be taken up before the appropriate forums if desired. On the issue of dredging and mining, the tribunal stated that “apart from compliance of the recommendations of the Committee by the State of Telangana and its authorities, mandate of law laid down in Deepak Kumar v. State of Haryana & Ors. and Sustainable Sand Mining Guidelines issued by the MoEF&CC under the EP Act and safeguards required to be adopted in terms of order of this Tribunal dated 26.02.2021 in OA No. 360/2015”.

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